Daily Blog

Republicans Show Their Colors

By their cynical and mendacious high volume reaction to the F.B.I.’s search of Trump’s headquarters pursuant to a judicial warrant based on probable cause that evidence would be found of a federal crime, prominent Republicans have shown themselves to be practitioners of the fascist playbook: accuse proponents of democracy and the rule of law of crimes you or your leader have committed, demonize those who have exposed your malevolence, threaten violence, generate fear.

Water and the West

Prolonged extreme drought in Western States is evidenced by historic low levels in lakes serving as reservoirs. Yesterday, Sara and I decided to take a look at Lemon Lake and Reservoir, which was created by damming the Florida River (really a brook) about 15 miles north-east of where we live. We’ve experienced surprisingly frequent afternoon showers lately, and I wondered if the water level in Lemon Lake had risen. Contrary to my hopes, it was still distressingly low. The brook feeding the lake was running briskly, but so was its continuation downstream of the dam. Apparently, water is needed so badly downstream (in the Colorado River system), that little or no water flowing into Lemon Lake stays in it. Running on empty may be the best we’ll ever do.

Pity Republican Politicians

If you’re a Republican politician, you can’t just cater to one or two of the worst causes and groups in our society to win elections, particularly primary elections; you have to cater to all of them. You have to have the support of groups of people who believe that Americans should be run by white fundamentalist Christians; groups of people who oppose sensible gun regulations; groups of people who don’t think efforts to reduce pollution and slow climate change should get in the way of maximizing profits; groups of people who are racist, homophobic, or xenophobic; groups of people who are still in thrall to Trump, are drawn to right-wing spawned conspiracy theories, and have authoritarian ambitions; and groups of people who believe that having the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is the way America ought to be. Republicans running for office don’t mean to be despicable, they only are because they have to be to get enough votes to win.

War Policy and Climate Policy

The biggest problem with the West’s effort to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia is its dependence on Russian oil and gas. Largely because of the war, oil and gas prices have risen significantly. By paying higher prices for Putin’s oil and gas, the West, in effect, is rewarding Putin for starting a war and slaughtering innocent people as fast as he can. To reduce Putin’s income, countries opposing him should swiftly cut oil and gas consumption significantly and stimulate alternative energy use. Good war policy is good climate policy. Greed and indifference keep it from happening.

Trump and the Republican Party

According to the best sources I’m aware of, it is now certain the Justice Department’s criminal investigation includes the coup attempt as well as the January 6, 2021 insurrection. It now seems more likely than not that Trump will be prosecuted, with any luck in multiple jurisdictions and for multiple crimes. It would be a relief to see him removed from the political scene, but even if that happens, our country will remain in deep trouble. The Republican Party has been taken over by authoritarians, and they won’t slack off in trying to subject America to authoritarian control after Trump is gone. Trump may soon be seen to be a burden that they are eager to get rid of.

Reforming the Electoral Count Act

Congress’s most urgent task is to reform the Electoral Count Act, which sets forth procedures for tallying and certifying votes in presidential elections. The ECA is full of holes and vague and ambiguous clauses, yet it worked satisfactorily from its enactment in 1887 until 2020, when Trump and those aligned with him tried to take advantage of its flaws as a pretext for defying Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. In its amended form, the ECA must be air-tight. Republicans have shown that there is no limit on the perverseness of maneuvers they would make to pursue their authoritarian goals.

A Cause for Hope

Hope isn’t worth much unless there’s cause for it. There is this morning. Amidst all the troubles in the world, including the tightening of the grip of Trumpian types on the Republican Party evidenced in yesterday’s primary elections, bracing news came from Kansas, a solidly right-wing state. A sizable (and decisive) percentage of Kansans who voted for Trump in the 2020 election balked at having an important human right taken away and voted to preserve the abortion rights enshrined in the Kansas State Constitution.

The Times Are Out of Joint

Headline: “BP {British Petroleum} profits highest in 14 years as it rakes in $8.5B amid gas pump pinch”

Putin is raking it in too, his reward for committing mass murder every day of the week. Bad policy decisions by many world leaders have led us to this situation. Greed and lust for power and status are at the root of it.

Experiencing What’s in the News

Headline to Wshington Post Editorial This Morning: “Air travel is in chaos — and there are no easy solutions.”

One example proves nothing. Still, our AA flight was delayed so much Saturday that we had to switch to
the Sunday flight, which made our connecting flight, but the connecting plane wasn’t working right,
so it turned around and went back to the gate, and we had to take another plane for the same flight — three hour delay. This does seem to be the new normal and nothing to complain about since it doesn’t amount to a true “horror story.”

Speaking of things not working right, this word processing program produced ragged margins this morning.

On the Nature of Banana Republics

Traveling again, though more slowly than I’d planned.
Blame the weather and American Airlines, partners in
delay.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin once
again hits the nail on the head this morning, responding
to those who express fear that prosecuting a former president is
what banana republics do. She lays out the incontestable
facts and notes: “Only a ‘banana republic’ would give
the guy behind the coup attempt a get-out-of-jail card.”

A Slight Favorable Shifting in the Odds

It’s nice that Senator Manchin appears to be taking a break from being smug obstructionist long enough to permit probable passage of a moderately constructive bill dealing with energy policy, health care, and tax policy. The most important aspect of this development is that it probably slightly improves chances that Democrats will fare better in this November elections. Thus, it slightly iimproves chances that American democracy will survive longer.

A Column I Didn’t Need to Read

Opinion Headline: “Why I’m Protesting the Congressional Baseball Game.”

I saw this headline for an opinion piece and decided to read it later, but when I came back to it, it was no longer posted. Then it occurred to me that I already knew what it probably said: Every summer Republican and Democratic Congressional Representatives oppose each other in a baseball game. The main trouble with continuing this tradition is that it assumes that the two parties are the same as they used to be — differing in many policy positions, but collegial and mutually committed to American Democracy. Creating such an impression does a disservice to the public, because it ignores that the Republican Party has become the authoritarian party. Democrats should be publicizing that fact, rather than obscuring it.

Election Campaign Strategy for Democrats

According to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who in this instance, as almost always, is precisely on target, Democratic candidates should speak with righteous anger, use blunt language, have mastery of the facts, and call out the Republican Party’s bad faith. 

This Blog

My blogs have been posting irregularly lately, partly because of
problems with the Word Press program I use and partly
because I’ve been overwhelmed with visiting family members.
I hope to resume posting blogs on a regular basis beginning tomorrow.
There’s no shortage of events to comment on.

A Model of Depravity

The hearing held yesterday by the Congressional Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection — the last hearing until September — detailed far beyond a reasonable doubt how Trump refused for 187 minutes to make any effort to stop the mob terrorizing the Capitol. Trump is no ordinary dangerous criminal. He will live long in history as a model of a depravity. That it’s possible that he might again become president is a clear indication that the United States is a sick country.

Global Warming

Some decades ago, we were warned that global warming was happening and that we should initiate measures to slow it down. At some point, we were warned that we must initiate measures to slow it down within the next few years. More recently, we were warned that we must initiate measures to slow it down now. I haven’t heard anyone say that “now” has passed, but my impression is that we’ve gone from “must act soon” to “should have acted earlier.” Whenever most people think that there’s no hope — that conditions will get worse no matter what we do — there will be even less impetus to slow global warming. The extinction of the human species will be hastened.

Notes from the Bureau of Analysis of Dismaying Thoughts

Headline for a Segment of the PBS Newshour: “GOP’s Requirement for Candidates: Loyalty to Trump”

That’s the whole story. You don’t need to know any more. Trump is a dangerous sociopath who elicits revulsion from every unduped person of good will. That most Republicans adhere to him is possibly the most significant of the multiple tragedies playing out before our eyes.

Will Merrick Garland Wake Up?

It’s clear to anyone following the revelations issuing from the Congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection that if Attorney General Garland doesn’t indict Trump, it will amount to instituting a policy that a president of the United States is above the law. Trump once bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and get away with it. Can he get away with the even worse crimes he has committed? Garland occasionally stirs in his sleep. That’s a hopeful sign, but it’s not yet known whether or when he’ll wake up.

Mean-Spiritedness

Alluding to recent news stories, including one about the attorney general of Indiana threatening to prosecute a doctor who gave a ten-year-old rape victim an abortion, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin notes: “In denying women have any interest in protecting their bodily integrity and intimate decision-making, the right-wing Supreme Court set up millions of women, their families, and their doctors for abuse, disrespect and physical and mental harm.”

What motivates right-wing vigilante types to cause so much misery? I think it’s to satisfy their mean-spirited psychic needs.

Putin and Ukraine

No one who has wantonly murdered tens of thousands of people, including thousands of people in his own army, ever says to himself, “What I’ve done so far is acceptable, but it might be immoral to kill a hundred thousand more people and, even if that’s okay, it surely wouldn’t be right to kill more than a million people.” For that reason, Putin’s thinking seems to be that, even if his army can’t conquer the rest of Ukraine, he can find satisfaction in firing as many missiles as he has handy at every kind of target indefinitely until Ukraine and the West give up. Meanwhile, he can have his propagandists continually piously assert on Russian government-controlled TV, that he is teaching the Ukrainians and the West a lesson, and that the fascists who want to destroy Russia are being obliterated so that the Russian people will be saved from tyranny and return to the glorious days of Peter the Great.

If Only. . .

Referring to Republican politicians who have failed to repudiate Trump and to the latest revelations elicited by the Congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, Washington Post columnist E. J.Dionne wrote, “Refusing to break with Trump now, forcefully and definitively, is to demonstrate a complete indifference to what the ethics of a constitutional republic and democracy require.”

If only every voter could become informed of that fact, American democracy would no longer be imperiled.

Chalk One Up for Humanity

Headline: “NASA’s new images represent humanity at its best.” This is the view of the Washington Post Editorial Board. It’s well said. The exceedingly complex array called the Webb telescope, positioned about a million miles from Earth, is fully commissioned and sending back pictures of unprecedented clarity and detail. More than 300 things could have gone wrong, anyone of which would have ruined the project, but none did. We’ll learn a lot more about the nature of the universe from the Webb.

A Strand of Totalitarianism is Woven into the Fabric of Our Society

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin: {The Supreme Court has decreed that} “from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs.” 

“Right-thinking” Christian Doctrine

In a recent column in the New York Times, Katherine Stewart, an expert on Christian fundamentalism, discusses dominionism — “the belief that right-thinking ‘Christians’ have a biblically derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society.” If God is on your side, anything goes.

It’s a philosophical doctrine that’s inimical to a liberal, pluralistic, democratic society, but one to which a majority of Supreme Court justices appear to subscribe.

Air Pollution

Headline: “Air pollution kills ten million per year.” (That’s world-wide.) It degrades the health of billions. It fuzzes the landscape so much and so often that it’s a marvel when the horizon is sharply defined. Even if we weren’t experiencing the effects of global warming and living with the prospect of climate-change apocalypses, it should be a high priority of the nations of the world to reduce air pollution. It’s too bad that there is so much else to think about — so many other crises, so many more pressing concerns. It’s understandable: But one can see where humanity is heading. The horizon in that direction is quite sharply defined.

My Letter to the Editor of the Durango Herald, Colorado, published yesterday.

Boebert

I got a postcard in the mail urging me to vote for Lauren Boebert, who is running to retain her seat as the representative for Colorado’s 3rd C.D. Three reasons were given for voting for Boebert: that she is Pro-Freedom, Pro-Guns, and Pro-Constitution.

The trouble is:

Boebert would force a woman to complete a pregnancy and give birth against her will. That’s not Pro-freedom;

Boebert is is a slavish supporter of the former president, who fomented an insurrection and pressured government officials in an effort to remain in office by blocking the orderly transition of government and overturning the conclusively validated 2020 presidential election. That’s not Pro-Constitution.

Boebert is Pro-guns! But what does it mean to be “pro-guns”? It doesn’t mean being supportive of the Second Amendment, which is the law of the land and therefore not an issue to be debated. For Boebert, it means being mindlessly opposed to any sensible gun safety measures allowed by the Second Amendment that would likely reduce the incidence of mass shootings.

Boebert is honest about one of her three claims, but empty headed as to all of them. That’s more than enough reason to vote for her honorable and capable Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch.

Headline: Republicans against Democracy

As you may know, a few years ago, a case came before the Supreme Court which many thought of as an opportunity for the Court to hold that partisan gerrymanding, which can result in the controlling party in a state drawing boundaries of districts so that, for instance, in a state where only 43% of the population votes for candidates from one party, 57% of state’s Congressional districts, and state legislature districts end up being held by candidates of that party, resulting in control of the minority over the majority.

Republicans have proved to be more adept and aggressive than Democrats in employing gerrymandering to gain and retain control of state legislatures and achieve disproportionately large representation in Congress. Rather than banning this undemocratic practice, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision a few years ago, washed their hands of it. They said it would be too hard for them to deal with such a matter on the federal level: Let the states take care of it, they said: State courts can stop it, basing their rulings on bedrock principles in most state Constitutions.

Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case which would turn on the validity of a cockamamie legal theory that supports the conclusion that state courts cannot rely on the authority of state constitutions to prevent state legislatures from taking whatever rankly partisan action they want to. Why would the Supreme Court take such a case unless they were ready to put their stamp of approval on this bizarre theory and proclaim it to be the law? If the five extreme right-wing justices who presently control he court issue such a ruling, they will confirm what already seems to be the case that, like most Republicans, they are against democracy. They are content to end it because their governing credo is to take and preserve power.

Trump is a Magnet for Sociopaths

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and witness to some of Trump’s machinations on Jan 6, 2021, the day of the storming of the capitol, has been widely praised for her forthright testimony to the Congressional committee investigating the insurrection. Simply by being an honorable person, she has become a national hero. Not so in the case of Meadows himself, former deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and a score of other insiders who have refused to come forward and testify as to the events of that fateful day. How did it happen that it’s the occasion for a big news story and accolades when someone in Trump’s entourage acts honorably. The answer is that Trump is a magnet for sociopaths, who are drawn to him in such numbers and with such velocity, that they crowd out almost everyone else in his vicinity.

Thoughts for Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! I decided to express that sentiment and save “Trump is a Magnet for Sociopaths” for another day.

Headline this morning: “Nearly every American has a foreboding that the country they love is losing its way.” I’m sure that’s true. Is there a remedy for it? Maybe some mix of good will, dedicated work, and time? Meanwhile, I suggest following the advice of my favorite car bumper sticker I’ve seen this year: “Just be nice.”

Why the Word “Conservative” Shouldn’t Be Associated with Republicans, Continued

A New York Times headline yesterday read: “Court’s term is the most conservative since 1931.” Why is the Times so obtuse? The word conservative is supposed to have something to do with conservation, with preserving things as they are. The Court did just the opposite on practically all fronts. They severely limited the E.P.A.’s ability to slow global warming and air and water pollution. They gave states more tools to restrict voting rights. They grossly limited women’s reproductive freedom. They struck down reasonable gun safety regulations. They tilted the playing field in favor of religious interests in ways contrary to the bedrock principle of separation of church and state. There’s nothing conservative about the five right-wing justices who control the Supreme Court. Every one of is a dangerous radical.

Why the Word “Conservative” Shouldn’t Be Associated with Republicans

July 2, 2022

The Republican Party is not the conservative party. How could it be when it supports the former president, who fomented an insurrection and pressured government officials in an effort to remain in office by blocking the orderly transition of government and overturning the conclusively validated 2020 presidential election; when it deprives women of reproductive freedom; when it insists that anyone should have rights to weapons of war; when it stops Congress from addressing climate change; when it works feverishly to subvert and repress voting rights, and this isn’t the end of the list of ways in which Republicans work to transition our country to longterm, one-party, authoritarian rule.

Global Warming and the Supreme Court

The right-wing majority-controlled Supreme Court has severely limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce regulations that would reduce pollution and carbon emissions and help slow global warming. It is no longer possible for the U.S. to be a leader among nations in arresting global warming, a goal that seems to be receding rapidly out of sight. Other huge producers of carbon emissions, like China, Russia, and Brazil, are ruled by sociopaths who have little or no interest in the future of humanity. The world is mostly run by people with the mindset of Louis XVth, who I believe it was who said, “Après moi, le déluge.” “Some say the world will end in fire / Some say in ice,” said Robert Frost in one of his poems. Looks like it will be fire. “After us, the fire,” says the Supreme Court, the baleful new voice of America.

I’m traveling for a few days and plan to resume this blog on Friday, July 1st.

What the Opinion overruling Roe v. Wade Reveals about the Character of the Right-Wing Justices

The opinion signed by a majority of Supreme Court justices in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization provides a window through which to view their psychic states. One can imagine honorable justices reaching a decision, which, though just, would work hardship on many people affected by it. Justices of this kind would express regret and explain how the decision was compelled by the law, perhaps recommending that the hardship could be minimized or removed by remedial legislation. The five justices signing the opinion in Dobbs are not honorable. This is evident not because the decision in Dobbs was egregiously wrong, which it was, but because, as Jennifer Rubin noted in a Washington Post column yesterday, the “opinion overturning the right to abortion drips with disdain for women’s concerns about personal autonomy and for the principle of stare decisis.”

Trump, The Supreme Court, and the Principle that “No One Is Above The Law.”

Trump and his supporters and emulators, a class of miscreants that includes most members of the Republican Party, have for some time been the biggest threat to American democracy, and it remains to be seen whether Trump’s gross criminality will go unpunished —- whether he will turn out to have been above the law, contrary to a bedrock principle of our democracy. It is now evident that the right-wing justices who control the Supreme Court constitute an almost equally grave threat to our democracy. They literally have the power to lift themselves above the law, since they are the ultimate arbiters as to what the law is, and they have shamefully exercised that power. Our present form of government has been dependent on members of the Court acting in good faith to uphold the law, particularly the Constitution of the United States, regardless of their political or personal inclinations. Now, it is the country’s great misfortune that a majority of the justices on the Court prefer to follow their deep-rooted psychic inclinations rather than be faithful to their duty to serve the nation. Our country is at risk of falling under the control of people who have lifted themselves above the law and are determined to stay there.

The Essential Qualities of Character of the Justices Who Overruled Roe V. Wade

Diana LIthwick, in Slate: “The people who suffer the most will be the poorest, the youngest, the sickest —- the people whose interests don’t even warrant acknowledgment by the majority opinion.”

Given their lack of concern for the misery and hardship they are inflicting on millions of women and families, it’s clear that the basis of the decision of the majority of justices of the Supreme Court to yank away the right of women to terminate their pregnancies isn’t to be found in the law, or even in their religious beliefs. It resides in their essential qualities of character: arrogance, resentfulness, and mean-spiritedness.

If Justice Prevails

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence who has watched the televised hearings conducted by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection would be aware by now that, if justice prevails, Trump will be indicted. Nixon was pardoned by his successor, President Ford. Nixon covered up a burglary, an insignificant crime compared to that of attempting to overthrow American democracy and put an autocrat in power. Pardoning Trump would be a foolish and cowardly act.

Republicans and the Republican Party, continued

A standout feature of Tuesday’s House Select Committee hearing Tuesday was the testimony of Rusty Bowers, the top Arizona Republican legislator who refused to participate in the scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Although Bowers was, and remains, a right-wing Republican, he preferred to adhere to his oath of office than abet a coup by Trump and his allies.

Bowers, along with some other key witnesses who testified in the hearing, clearly fits in the group I identified in my previous blogs this week: People who “traditionally vote for Republican, but care more about preserving democratic institutions and the rule of law than about party loyalty,” a category that I think once comprised about 95% of Republicans, but has shrunk to about 5% of Republicans, placing American democracy in extreme peril.

Republicans and the Republican Party

My previous two blog entries, read together, are meant to make the point that during the past forty years or so, the Republican Party descended to a base moral plane. Lincoln appealed to the better angels of our nature. Trump appealed to the worst instincts of our nature. For many, these worst instincts had been mostly dormant, but, as we’ve learned, were all too easily summoned up.

Types of Republicans, circa 1980

(percentages are my approximate estimates):

5% of Republicans

proponents of doing whatever it takes to gain and maintain autocratic power, regardless of the law or any sense of human decency;

B. proponents of doing whatever it takes to gain and maintain autocratic power, as long as they can make a pretense of following legal procedures’;

C: people whose decision making is more strongly driven by a particular ideology, such as Christian fundamentalism, white nationalism, xenophobia; gun culture, and hatred of regulations and taxes than by any interest they may have in preserving democratic institutions and the rule of law.

D. Others who for various reasons want Republicans to be in power regardless of the effect of Republican control on democratic institutions the rule of law.

95% of Republicans

Those who traditionally vote for Republican, but care more about preserving democratic institutions and the rule of law than about party loyalty.

Types of Republicans, 2022

(Percentages are my rough estimates):

95% of Republicans

A. proponents of doing whatever it takes to gain and maintain autocratic power, regardless of the law or any sense of human decency;

B. proponents of doing whatever it takes to gain and maintain autocratic power, as long as they can make a pretense, however slight, of following legal procedures;

C: people whose decision making is more strongly driven by a particular ideology, such as Christian fundamentalism, white nationalism, xenophobia; gun culture, and hatred of regulations and taxes than by any interest they may have in preserving democratic institutions and the rule of law.

D. Others who for various reasons want Republicans to be in power regardless of the effect of Republican control on democratic institutions the rule of law.

5% of Republicans

Those who traditionally vote for Republican, but care more about preserving democratic institutions and the rule of law than about party loyalty.

Campaign Point

This morning, in another of her Washington Post columns that’s a model of clarity and incisiveness, Jennifer Rubin explained that, though it may be in doubt whether Trump can be proved guilty of crimes, it is “not controvertible is that {he} lost the election, lacked any proof of fraud, betrayed our democracy by attempting to overthrow the election results and sparked a violent assault on the Capitol.” It follows, that, in every political contest for every public office, the Republican candidate should be asked whether he or she supports Trump’s Big Lie and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Unless such candidate has a convincing answer, the point should be made, reiterated, emphasized, and pounded into public consciousness: this candidate is unfit to serve in public office.

Indictment and Conviction

I was pleased to see a clip of an interview with Attorney General Merrick Garland in which he said that he was watching all the committee hearings, either live or on tape. This increases the likelihood that Trump will be indicted, but a terrible truth hanging over our country is that it’s highly unlikely that Trump will be convicted of a crime. That would require, in any trial, twelve jurors agreeing to convict him. Since about one-third of the population consists of Trump supporters, and it’s their credo that defending Trump is more important than defending the rule of law, an average of four jurors out of every twelve are likely to vote to acquit Trump regardless of the applicable facts and law. The odds of any panel of jurors not including any Trump supporters are dismayingly small.

The Critical Issue in the Upcoming Elections

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne makes the incontrovertible point that Democrats must get across to the public that the preservation and strengthening of American Democracy is the most important issue in the upcoming elections. It would be a great tragedy if our country fell under autocratic rule because voters thought of their votes aa a protest against inflation.

Questions for Republican Candidates

Journalists, concerned citizens, and Democratic candidates should ask every Republican running for office:

Have you peddled or encouraged credence to the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen?

To those who answer Yes, ask A, below.
To those who answer No, ask B, below.
To those who dodge the question, ask C, below:

A. How do you justify being involved in trying to transform our country into an authoritarian state?

B. Why haven’t you repudiated Trump and everyone else who hasn’t called out Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and those who have opposed or belttiled the investigation of the January 6, 2021, insurrection?

C. Why are you ducking the question instead of answering it forthrightly?

Headlines and Their Implications:

Headline: “More than 100 GOP primary winners back Trump’s false fraud claims.”

Headline: “Many GOP candidates intend to use public office to affect electoral outcomes.”

By clining to Trump, Republicans have descended to Trump’s moral plane. The Republican Party has become the authoritarian party. That is who they are.

One Step Closer To Indicting Trump

The House Select Committee to investigate the January 6, 2021, insurrection held its second televised hearing yesterday and conclusively established that Trump was unequivocally informed by his own advisors and confidants that he had no cause for challenging the 2020 presidential election. What about the “detached from reality” defense that Barr seemed to set up for Trump in his testimony — detached from reality equals no criminal intent? That won’t fly. As Jennifer Rubin writes in a Washington Post column this morning, “You do not get to arm-twist officials or send the mob to the Capitol because you really, really think you won.”

Gun Safety Regulations

Republicans oppose gun safety reforms because (i) a sizable percentage of their constituency are gun enthusiasts who are passionately opposed to any gun reforms, and (ii) a sizable amount of their campaign financing comes from the gun and ammo industry. Lately, public opinion so strongly favors gun safety reforms that it has made some Republican senators nervous. Ten of them have shown willingness to support some watered-down reforms and related measures. If they do, there would be enough votes to overcome the undemocratic filibuster rule. Remedial legislation might be enacted. Some say it would be a good first step. It would, though just a baby first step. It’s not as if the country is coming to its senses.

Trump as seen in 2016 and in 2022

Today, in another of her searing columns in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd distills the progression of our general understandung of Trump over the past six years. In 2016, he appeared to be “a bloviating buffoon who stumbled into the presidency.” Since then, he has been revealed to be “a callous monster.” It’s not the existence of a single abominable human being that is the great national tragedy, it’s the abominable adoption of his ethos by the vast majority of Republicans and large segments of the population.

The Limits of Fair and Balanced

Headline for a Washington Post headline of a column by Mark Theissen: “If Trump incited Jan. 6, what about Schumer’s threats against Kavanaugh?”

The Washington Post’s roster of columnists spans the political spectrum. This would seem to be fair and balanced — a good policy. But when most of the right-wing side of the political spectrum supports a former president who fomented an insurrection as part of an orchestrated attempt to overturn a presidential election and install an authoritarian government, columnists aligned with this cohort are bound to be intellectually dishonest and morally deficient.

Senate Majority Leader) Schumer spoke in anger, but he said nothing illegal, and no one, not even Marc Thiessen, imagines that Schumer intended to do anything illegal. The gap between Schumer’s rhetorical excess and Trump’s conduct is so vast that Thiessen’s resort to “Whataboutism” is no less pathetic than it is reprehensible, a scrap of garbage not fit to print.

The First Televised Hearing of the House Select Committee’s Investigation of the January 6, 2021, Insurrection.

I watched the hearing last night. It was powerful, gripping, and admirable in every way. It slightly raised my hopes that Trump will eventually be indicted and tried on multiple serious criminal charges. Ample evidence was provided of his corrupt intent. I have less hope that he will be convicted, because odds are that any jury will contain at least one Trumpian type (a person who, by definition, lacks any moral scruples) who would refuse to vote for conviction.

Moral; Immoral

Many issues are shades of gray. Some are black and white, right and wrong, moral and immoral. Yesterday, the House passed sweeping gun safety legislation. All but five Republicans voted against it. Because of the anti-democratic filibuster rule, at least 10 of the 50 Republican senators must vote in favor the legislation for it to pass. It has no chance of passing, because only 5 out of the 50 Republican senators will vote for it. 5 right, 45 wrong; 5 moral, 45 immoral. 90% of Republican senators are more interested in taking money from the gun lobby or preserving their political standing in the party than in reducing the rate of massacres in our distressed country. That’s why Jennifer Rubin’s first Washington Post column today is titled: “Republicans should see what an AR-15 does to a child’s body.”

The Televised Hearings That Begin Tomorrow.

The televised hearings conducted by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6, 2021 insurrection begin Thursday. Let’s hope they garner a large audience and that the media responsibly cover them. If that happens, there’s a fairly good chance that a critical number of people will grasp that there was a multi-faceted conspiracy to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, that the leaders of the conspiracy included many high-level Republicans, that there are grounds for criminal prosecution of many of them, and that, with few exceptions, nearly all Republican members of Congress were supportive of the Party’s efforts to undermine our democratic processes and are for that reason alone unfit to hold public office.

American Democracy Fighting for Its Life

Thursday, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection begins a series of public hearings aired on prime-time TV. Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne rightly observes that the Committee’s task is “to demonstrate that day’s viciousness was not some spontaneous outbreak of mayhem but an organized, radical and dangerous assault on democracy itself.”

The fate of our democracy may turn on how effective the Committee is to awakening a large element of the public to the enormity of the concerted effort by powerful figures in the Republican Party and their media and big money-supplying allies to overturn the 2020 election and, when necessary, future elections, thereby subjecting our country to authoritarian rule.

The house is on fire. Some are sounding the alarm. A lot of people are denying it. A lot of people are brushing it off as “partisan bickering,” or “polarization,” or more of the “same old, same old.” Would that it were nothing more than that.

How to Deal with Putin

Headline: “Ukraine Rejects Macron’s Plea Not to Humiliate Russia”

The idea is that if Putin gets humiliated, he’s in danger of being overthrown, and to avoid that, he starts using nukes on the Ukrainians or otherwise recklessly escalates the war, thinking: That will snow them!

I share Macron’s concern, which is why I favor giving Putin an off ramp, though with this proviso: There will be no on ramp available to him in the future, and he will be disabused of any illusion that there might be one.

Some Problems We Face — An Incomplete List

the cultivation by malevolent power-holders of ignorance, cynicism, gun culture, white grievance, nihilism, resentment, anger, and apathy.

the conversion of the Republican Party into the Authoritarian Party

control of the Supreme Court by right-wing ideologues

gross income and wealth inequality and the trend toward oligarchy

gun massacres in the U.S. and inaction to lessen their frequency

Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine

global warming and environmental degradation

Chinese military buildup and indifference to human rights.

the world-wide trend away from democracy and toward authoritarianism

North Korea: a nuclear-armed Sparta

My Choice in the Primary Election

The incumbent Congressional Representative for my district, Lauren Boebert, is one of the most extreme MAGA (Trumpian) types in Congress. A more conventional Republican is challenging her in the primary this month, but is not expected to win. As a progressive Democrat, I have to decide which of two Democratic candidates to vote for in the primary, each of whom has strengths and weaknesses. Neither one is impressive — neither of them is making the point that democracy itself is on the ballot this year! No hint from either of them that the Republican Party has become the Authoritarian Party. Despite their failings, they are both vastly preferable to Boebert’s Republican challenger and infinitely preferable to Boebert. My vote in the primary contest will not be necessarily be for the candidate who would be the best person to represent our district, but for the one that would be most likely to win the general election. I have to make that judgment mowtly based on their respective websites. At the moment, it looks like a coin toss between the two of them. I have three weeks to decide.

Garland

Can Attorney General Merrick Garland awaken from his slumbers? He is a brilliant, capable, and honorable man, but he may have a psychic deficit: an aversion to conflict that, despite plenty of evidence in plain sight of probable cause of criminal intent, deters him from holding high-level Republicans accountable for their roles in fomenting or aiding in the January 6, 2021 insurrection and in trying to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. Garland should also be working overtime to defend our democracy against concerted Republican attempts to undermine and distort results in upcoming elections. Is he aware that we still have two predominant political parties, but that they are not the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; they are the Democratic Party and the Authoritarian Party.

The Republican Agenda:

Cultivating: ignorance, cynicism, gun culture, white grievance, nihilism, resentment, anger, and apathy

The Role and Duty of Journalists

Journalists have a high calling. They play a critical rule in an open society. For that reason, journalists and interviewers should ask rigorous questions and follow-up questions, and not let politicians get away with evading questions, using weasel words, changing the subject, or indulging in what-aboutism. Thus if a journalist or interviewer has six questions and the politician ducks question #3, the journalist should not proceed to question #4. Instead, the journalist should be prepared and able to ask question #3b, #3c, etc. until a responsive answer is obtained or the interviewee is exposed for what he or she is.

Sickness and Treatment

Maureen Dowd’s column in today’s New York Times, titled “America’s Human Sacrifices,” is one of the most powerful essays I’ve ever read. To summarize it would be to do it injustice. My own view of our country’s sickness is that it is suffering from a parasitical disease. It is being devoured from within. A purgative is desperately needed: voting every opponent of reasonable gun regulations out of office. Only if enough people can be roused to administer this lives-saving medicine can the patient’s recovery begin.

Republican Intransigence; Media Failure

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin lamented how the media assumes that because it’s a “given” that the Republicans will oppose gun reform, there’s no point in talking about (criticizing) them.

Republicans take no heat, even though they should take maximum heat. Instead of talking about the shameful irresponsibility of Republicans in opposing gun reform, the media talks about the Democratic failure to reform the filibuster. If only the Democrats could get it together, we could have meaningful action on gun control and save lives! It’s as if Republicans aren’t the problem, even though they, plus one or two instransigent Democratic senators who refuse to vote to reform the fillibuster, are precisely the problem. It would be desirable if they weren’t, but that can only be achieved by voting them out of office.

Why can’t Senator Ted Cruz (R. Texas) perceive what a despicable person he is?

I watched a video clip of a reporter asking Ted Cruz why the United States is unable to do anything about stopping maniacs with automatic rifles from massacring school children. Cruz replied by saying how great America is and how people from all over the world want to come and live here, a non-responsive and dismissive answer. Then Cruz fled, rather being further exposed as the scoundrel he is. Cruz has a deep character flaw — he exists on the same moral plane as a hyena. It’s an indication of how sick our country is that he has been retained in office. The same is true of all politicians who
have blocked sensible and reasonable regulation of firearms.

Ending Russia’s War on Ukraine, Continued

After posting my blog yesterday, I read that President Zalensky said that any peace agreement would have to leave Ukraine free to join the European Union. I had that in mind in clause (d) of my provisos — “Ukraine’s unrestricted sovereignty.” My stated exception to that would be having Ukraine agree not to join NATO, but since it would also be stipulated that NATO would defend Ukraine as it would any member of NATO in the event of renewed aggression, this concession would not prejudice Ukraine’s security. Its function would be as a face-saving device for Putin. The key requirement of any settlement should be that it maximizes deterrence of further Russian aggression.

Ending Russia’s War on Ukraine

For a number of reasons, which I won’t attempt to itemize here, it would be highly desirable to end Russia’s war against Ukraine— the sooner the better. It’s up to Ukraine to decide what terms they would agree to, but Ukraine’s Western allies should have a strong voice in the matter — the assistance they have rightly been providing Ukraine has enabled Ukraine to withstand Russia’s assault and keep it from being totally conquered.

I would favor a settlement pursuant to which, among other provisions, Ukraine cedes to to Russia all territory now under Russian control and agrees not to join NATO, subject to Russia agreeing to and compliance with all of the following: a) immediate cessation of hostilities; b) immediate repatriation of all prisoners; c) renunciation of all further territorial claims with respect to Ukraine; d) recognition of Ukraine’s unrestricted sovereignty; e) renunciation of any objection to NATO’s pledge to come to Ukraine’s defense as if Ukraine were a member of NATO if it is attacked by Russia or any Russian surrogate; f) Sweden and Finland becoming members of NATO; g) all impediments to production and distribution of Ukraine’s agricultural and other output are removed; h) Russia renounces any further territorial ambitions against any European country, including, without limitation, Moldova and any member of NATO.

Fascism in Russia and the United States

Historian Timothy Snyder recently identified the hallmarks of Fascism. Russia is a fascist country. Among other indicia, it has a cult of the leader, Putin, and it has the myth of a past golden age of imperial greatness that must be restored through war and conquest. It helps Putin that he can claim that God is on his side. The patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church supports his messianic cause.

The United States is heading in the same direction. There’s the cult of Trump, the myth of White Christian Nationalism, bringing with it divine approval of Christian evangelical pastors, the cult of guns and militias, the righteous crusade to restore America’s golden age by stripping away the institutions of an ordered society, and the subordination of truth and honorable behavior to overriding ideology and greed.

American Democracy on the Ropes

Republicans are marching down the Trumpian path. A New York Times study determined that 44% of Republican legislators in nine states tried to undermine their state’s vote count in the 2020 presidential election. Only a decade ago, it would have seemed to me to be inconceivable, but now it’s a fact, that the Republican Party has become the authoritarian party. Most Republicans running for office are affirming Trump’s Big Lie that he won the 2020 election. It seems more likely than not that, by 2025, we will be subjected to autocratic rule.

Billionaires, Power, and Politics

Headline: “Oracle’s Larry Ellison joined Nov. 2020 call about contesting Trump’s loss.”

I didn’t read the article and I don’t know that facts involved in this particular case, but I know that a monumental problem this country has is that most of its 600 or more billionaires are aggressive, acquisitive types that are driven by hunger for power, money, and status. Too many of them are like Putin’s oligarchs, who are willing to tolerate and support an autocratic ruler to gain his favor. Money equals power. Opportunistic unprincipled billionaires have been getting more and more of both, and they have been financing politicians who, like them, have scant interest in preserving American democracy or in the common good.

Carolo Rovelli, continued

Yesterday I referred to a book of essays I’ve been reading by the distinguished Italian physicist Carolo Rovelli. That was because I wanted to report what Rovelli thought should be the top priorities for politicians in power. Now that I’m approaching the end of the book, I realize that I should say what the book is titled, especially since I think it’s very much worth reading. Rovelli is a great humanist as well as being a great scientist. The book, published this year, is titled There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important than Kindness.

Carlo Rovelli’s Concerns

I’ve been reading a collection of essays by the eminent Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. He is a deep thinker culturally and philosophically, as well as scientifically. In an essay written in 2018, he lists four critical concerns: preventing wars from breaking out, protecting the environment, remediating gross income and wealth inequality, and reducing the risk of nuclear war. Given the trend of events since he wrote this essay, he may have added a fifth concern by now: protecting and strengthening democracy.

Democracy is on the Ballot in Pennsylvania

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne notes that democracy will be on the ballot this fall in Pennsylvania when the ultra Trumpian, coup- plotting, insurrectionist-supporting, Trump’s stolen election Big Lie spreader, Republican nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, faces state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee. In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state. If Republicans control the governorship and the legislature, they can be counted upon to submit electors supporting the Republican presidential nominee in 2024 regardless of which candidate wins the popular vote. American democracy’s survival is unlikely unless Shapiro, for governor, and Fetterman, for U.S. Senate, prevail in this November’s election.

Churchill on War and Peace

About sixty-five years ago, I read Churchill’s six volume history of World War II. I admired what he called “The Moral of the Work”: “In War: Resolution; In Defeat: Defiance; In Victory: Magnanimity; In Peace: Goodwill.”

To this I would add, “In a Stalemate: Imagination.”

Ending Hunger in America

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dione praised Biden and legislators in both parties who plan to convene a conference the aim of which would be to figure out how to end hunger in America. It shouldn’t be hard. Just provide the money and set up the mechanism for enabling those who need food and can’t pay for it get it. Mr. Dione didn’t specify how much such a program would cost, but from everything I’ve read, I’m sure it could be financed by a very modest additional tax on people and corporations who clearly haven’t been taxed enough in the past. Everybody should feel better knowing they live in a country where no one goes hungry.

A Hopeful Thought for Putin

Headline: “List of GOP lawmakers against Ukraine aid is quickly
growing.” This news should lift Putin’s spirits. If Republicans win control of the Senate or the House this fall, U.S. support for Ukraine is quite likely to crumble, enhancing the chances that the war will play out to Putin’s liking.

War Profiteering

Senator Bernie Sanders: “21 oil and gas companies made over $41 billion in profits, more than double their profits from last year.”

There should be a windfall profits tax on companies making excess profits because of Russia’s war on Ukraine.There are much better ways to spend that extra money than to line the pockets of top executives and shareholders of such companies. Excess profits taxes, price controls, and rationing prevented runaway inflation during World War II. Much less stringent measures are needed in the present circumstances, but some are and excess profits taxes on war profiteers is one of them.

Alas, Congress is under assault from within its own ranks, and much that should be done doesn’t even come up for debate.

Quotes of the Week

“Putin’s authoritarian neofascism has rooted itself in America, in one of our major political parties.” Robert Reich

Concerning the mortal threat to American democracy posed by Republican politicians and their allies: “Panic is generally a bad idea, but sometimes it is warranted.” Washington Post opinion writer Max Boot

U.S. Policy with Respect to the Ukraine War

Headline: “The U.S. is expanding its goals in Ukraine. That’s dangerous.”

I didn’t take time to read this article. I didn’t need to. I’d already read an article making the same point by the estimable Washington Post opinion writer Katrina Van den Heuvel, and I’d already formed the same opinion independently. The heroic and impressively competent Ukrainian defense against the Russian invasion has been inspiring, and the U.S. has rightly come to Ukraine’s aid, but the Biden Administration must not let Ukraine’s success and Putin’s blundering go to its head. We must not sleepwalk into appropriating this conflict as a way to win a “safe” war with Russia. This is a time for humility and for creative thinking, not a time for trying to bring Russia to its knees. We should continue to support Ukraine, but we should take the initiative in trying to end the war. We still need to give Putin an off ramp. The alternative would likely be months more of death, suffering, and destruction in Ukraine or much worse.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev backed down because Kennedy agreed to remove guided missiles from Turkey. The missiles were obsolete, but this concession was sufficient to let Khrushchev save face and withdraw nuclear armed missiles from Cuba. Significantly, Kennedy told Khrushchev that he would have to keep it secret that he was giving up the missiles in Turkey or he would be pilloried by political opponents and by the media. In this way, Kennedy elevated the importance of his concession in Khrushchev’s mind. There are many differences between the Ukrainian War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, but there are echoes of that episode that should not be ignored. Biden must make sure that he’s thinking like Kennedy and not like Dr. Strangelove.

Putin’s Happy Thought

Headline: “Putin prepared for ‘prolonged conflict’, U.S.
official warns.”

A bright spot for Putin is that chaos may ensue in the wake of the U.S. elections this fall, and that, by 2025, the U.S. may have transitioned into an authoritarian state. Authoritarian leaders have proven to be much more sympathetic to Putin’s cause than leaders committed to democracy and human rights. It’s comforting to Putin to know that an authoritarian leader of the U.S. would probably adhere to the principle that “We dictators should stick together.”

Something the U.S.Should Do

Headline: “What the U.S. should do about Tunisia sliding into authoritarianism”

Certainly, the U.S. should work to promote democracy and liberty throughout the world wherever possible. It will be much harder to do that if the U.S. itself transitions to authoritarian rule. The maxim “Physician, heal thyself,” applies.

The Essence of the Issue

Jennifer Rubin: “When the ‘crime’ takes place in a woman’s womb, the enforcement mechanism by necessity will be intrusive.’’

The Word “Woke”

Republicans are attacking Democrats by calling them “woke.” Never mind that “woke” entered public discourse as a term meaning awake and aware of injustices that plague our country. Republicans throw “woke” around as if being woke is a menace to our society, something so reprehensible that American freedom and liberty will be lost if people who are “woke” have their way. Tactics like this are all that Republicans have in their bag of tricks. Most Republican politicians and their media allies are opposed to truth, fairness, and decency, which they treat as impediments to their efforts to transition our democracy to one-party authoritarian rule. I wish more voters got woke to what Republicans are about.

Notes from Surreal Land

Headline: “Republican governor of Texas says schools should stop educating undocumented children.”

This was the policy of slaveowners: Keep them illiterate: they will be less trouble that way.

Robert Reich’s Facebook Posting on Abortions:

“It’s impossible to ban abortions. It’s only possible to ban safe abortions.”

I don’t think that’s quite accurate, Mr. Reich. It isn’t possible to ban safe abortions for women who are rich enough and informed enough to travel to a more enlightened jurisdiction where they can obtain competent medical services.

The Supreme Court justices voting to overrule Roe v. Wade shouldn’t feel too bad about that limitation in the reach of their authority. They will have at least succeeded in banning safe abortions for millions of poor women, an act for which they will be long remembered in history.

The State of the Supreme Court

Recall the epigram, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The five right-wing extremist justices on the Supreme Court control the Court.
The law is what these five people say it is. No one can challenge them. Their power is absolute, and they are absolutely corrupt.

The Underlying Rationale of the Judicial Philosophy of Justice Samuel Alito and His Allies on the Supreme Court

Reading excerpts from the leaked draft opinion of Justice Alito in which he holds that Roe v. Wade must be overruled gives the impression that Alito and his fellow extremist right-wing justices are, above all else, ideologues: Their judicial decisions adhere to their ideology rather than to the law, though of course they cloak their opinions in legal parlance.

From what I know about these justices, the common ideology that governs their decision making attracted them because it serves as an organizing principle for their feelings of resentment, contempt, and superiority, for the pleasure they take in flaunting their power, and for self-justification of their stark lack of concern for the injury they inflict on others.

The Alarming State of the Nation’s Health: A Report from Bedside

From a recent column by New York Times opinion writer Michelle Goldberg: “a country that could elect Trump is sick by definition.”

There’s no question that a country that could elect Trump president is sick. To this it should be added that a country that failed to remove Trump from office after he was first impeached is very sick, and a country where there is a danger that Trump might again become president is gravely ill. Our country has other very serious diseases and afflictions as well. We have some outstanding medical personnel doing the best they can to save the patient, but the odds of success don’t look good.

A Simple Truth That Voters Need To Know

Those who fail to repudiate Trump — the vast majority of Republican politicians — are cowardly sycophants driven by unbridled ambition. This is a simple truth that people of good will must get across to a solid majority of voters if American democracy is to survive.

Democracy Versus Despotism

Russia, ruled by a vicious despotic monster, has been trying to conquer its neighbor, Ukraine. Many democracies, particularly the NATO countries, have been providing vital assistance to Ukraine in its heroic efforts to resist Russia’s assault. Sadly, the leaders of some of the largest and most influential democracies — most notably India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico — have washed their hands of the whole business, a bad sign in the ongoing struggle that grips the world. The United States itself is undergoing an internal struggle between democracy and nascent despotism. The next few years may bring a tipping of the scales.

Headline: Brazil is burning down the Amazon so you can eat steak.

Can you imagine someone running for Congress and saying that meat should be taxed, and the revenues applied to alleviating hunger and developing renewable energy sources? Of course not. Yet this would be sensible policy. We live in a culture and political milieu in which many good policies have no chance of entering public discourse, much less being implemented.

Unfathomable

There’s so much that’s unfathomable these days. I’m talking about conditions or situations that are so weird, so counterproductive, or so inane that it doesn’t seem that there could possibly be an explanation for why they exist or are happening. For example, the United States Postal Service, headed by a rich Trump donor who unfathomably hasn’t been fired yet, needs a new fleet of delivery trucks and apparently has contracted to spend as much as $11.3 billion on gas-powered vehicles that get 8.6 mpg even though the USPS is perfectly suited to using a fleet of electric trucks — they could be recharged every night during off-peak electric-usage hours. It’s unfathomable how such a patently wrong-headed major decision could be made.

An Interesting Ohio Primary Contest

Two men square off Tuesday in the Ohio Republican Senate primary. One is an unprincipled, flat-out, right-wing authoritarian who had been conspicuously critical of Trump, but decided to become subservient to him so he could get his endorsement. His opponent has all the traditional conservative policy credentials, but he is unwilling to go along with the Party’s Big Lie that Biden stole the 2020 presidential election, repudiates the blatantly anti-democratic practices that have become standard behavior for Republican politicians, and believes that Republicans as well as Democrats should respect and be bound by the rule of law. It will be interesting to see which candidate the Republican primary voters in Ohio choose to nominate. Is it realistic to hope that it will be the honest decent man rather than the proto-fascist thug?

The Grievance Machine

Chris Hayes, on his MSNBC news and opinion show “All In,” last evening, laid out how Republican politicians and their right-wing propagandistic media allies not only continue to promote the Big Lie that Biden stole the 2020 presidential election, they also promote the fantastical myth that the Democrats, socialists, coastal elites, closet communists, conspirators, and perverts that control governments and many corporations are, among other offenses, trying to take away our freedom — trying to replace real America with immigrants and minorities, trying to fleece the treasury, trying to destroy religious freedom, and trying to corrupt and brainwash our children, and that they are committing widespread voter fraud with the aim of rigging elections in their favor.

These Republican politicians and their right-wing propagandistic media allies cry, they whine, they shriek, they shake their heads with mock dismay, as they try to convince voters that it will take Republican control to save America from a mortal threat to America led by president Biden, who is sytematically ruining our country, taking it fartherr down the road to perdition every day. Hayes played some clips of deeply cynical, meretricious, contemptible performances by Fox News hosts and others. He calls them, collectively, “The Grievance Machine.” They are are a pox on the land, and they may bring American democracy down.

Musk and Twitter

Headline: “Elon Musk, world’s richest man, to buy Twitter for 44 billion dollars.” This reminds me of an old adage: “You can tell the men from the boys by the price of their toys.” Some toy. Will Musk use it for the common good or in service of his business or political agenda and to increase his political power?

Unfortunately, people who make a fantastic amount of money or parlay their family fortune into monumental wealth, tend to have inflated self-regard and overriding self-interest and lose perspective about how they should be directing their lives. Most of them seem addicted to money and power. Contrast Jeff Bezos, for example, with his space ship ventures, 500 million dollar yacht under construction, and reported mansion with 25 bathrooms with his ex-wife Mackenzie Scott, an accidental multi-billionaire, who is systematically and responsibly giving the bulk of her fortune to good causes.

I don’t know whether Musk’s ownership of Twitter will be good for the world or bad for the world, but I’m not optimistic.

A Fleeting Uplift

I felt a little uplift from the news yesterday. Macon’s solid win over the far-right extremist Marine Le Pen in the French elections was heartening. Democracy withstood a formidable assault. NATO and the European Union withstood a formidable assault. Another cheerful bit was the report of Secretary of State Blinken’s and Secretary of Defense Austin’s visit to Kiev to meet with President Zelensky. Biden has not flinched in the face of Putin’s fist-shaking. The U.S. has stepped up delivery of weapons and humanitarian aid as well. My uplifted mood lasted until I watched an evening news show featuring the Democratic attorney general of Michigan, who left no doubt that American democracy is on the edge of a cliff and that powerful people are pushing hard to shove it over.

A Sign of Our Troubled Times

Headline: “One of the biggest political races this fall is for the AG of Michigan.” How could that be? In each state, the attorney general’s job is to see that the laws governing that state are properly executed and enforced. Competence in carrying out that task should be the governing criterion in an AG race. This headline suggests that something else is at stake in the Michigan AG race. Judging by what happened in Michigan in the wake of the 2020 election, I suspect that one of the candidates is aligned with the politicians and voters who worked so feverishly to discredit Biden’s win of Michigan’s popular vote in that election and tried to have that state’s electoral votes cast for Trump.

The Unholy Alliance

Those who are in positions of power in the Republican Party have one overriding principle, which is to gain and hold power. In pursuit of that aim, they appeal to various groups, members of which have a particular overriding principle, for example:

Cutting taxes ond providing tax loopholes for high income and rich people;
Cutting out government regulations that bother them;
“Taking back America”: transforming it from a liberal pluralistic society to a white-dominated one that institutes “Christian” values;
Belief that a “strong” authoritarian leader would make America a stronger, richer country;
Belief that measures to combat climate change are a form of tyranny;
Belief that gun safety regulations are alien to a free society;
Belief that people in lower income categories get too many handouts, which amount to work disincentives;
Belief that coastal elite types are screwing real Americans.

Convince the members of each of these groups that you are fighting for their special rights and interests, and you can put together a winning coalition. The Republican Party is an unholy alliance but an effective one.

What Getting Real Would Mean

Getting real would be admitting to ourselves that we’re in an epochal confrontation with Putin. There’s been nothing like it since our confrontation with Axis powers in World War II. Then we had gas rationing, price controls, windfall profits taxes, and a more progressive tax system to ward off destructive inflation and concentrate on defeating the enemy. We should adopt policies that reflect the magnitude of our present challenge. We could to a large degree supplant Russia as the biggest supplier of fossil fuels to Europe and reduce air pollution in the U.S. at the same time.

How Dead Democracy Might Look

It might have the same Constitution we have now, the same three branches of government, the same “checks and balances,” the same Bill of Rights. Everything might look the same on paper, but it would function as prescribed in the authoritarian playbook. This has happened not just in Russia and China, but in countries like Brazil and Hungary. It will happen in France if right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen wins the election this weekend. It will happen in the United States if Trump, or someone out of the same mold, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, becomes president in January 2025. In a dead democracy, as Jennifer Rubin writes, democracy can be reduced to “an empty formality without the institutions and values to protect dissent, pluralism and basic human rights.”

The Media’s Duty

If, during the next two or three years, the United States of America transitions from a flawed democracy to a plutocrat-friendly autocracy, much of the blame can rightly be laid on the media. The overriding problem facing our country is that most Republicans have chosen to pursue an authoritarian agenda to gain and hold power permanently. Yet, as Jennifer Rubin pointed out in a powerful Washington Post column yesterday, “Republicans who appear for TV interviews are rarely — if ever — asked basic questions about the ongoing threat to our democracy.” She lists many questions that interviewers should ask Republican politicians, as to which they should be made to answer and not let off the hook.

American democracy can’t survive if a clear majority of voters don’t understand that Republicans have proven themselves willing to abandon truth, justice, fairness, and basic decency in their effort to turn our country into an authoritarian state. Members of the media have a sacred duty not just to report what politicians and their backers say, but to root out truth. The Washington Post’s motto is “Democracy dies in darkness.” The media, generally, needs to provide much better lighting.

History in the Making

What follows is a rewording of a blog I posted in February that’s lodged in my mind and I think worth repeating. What about the “arc of history” and talk about “the right side of history”? Neither exists. That’s not cause for despair. If the arc of history bends in the right direction, it will be because enough good people made it happen.

History in the making seems to be a matter of lulls and big events, with undercurrents flowing all the time. In some ways it’s like geology, where forces are at work all the time but are not noticeable except to experts who are aware of stresses building up that at some point will result in a devastating earthquake or volcanic eruption. In recent years, big events have been occurring at an unusual rate, e.g. the election of a sociopathic aspiring autocrat as president of the United States in 2016; the failure of the Republican Party and the great majority of Republicans to repudiate him and hold him accountable, choosing instead to adopt his depraved moral ethos as their own; the rise of authoritarianism and brutalism and weakening of democratic institutions throughout the world; the stark failure of humanity to combat global warming; the transition of the Supreme Court of the United States into an instrument for implementing an extreme right-wing agenda; the Covid pandemic and threat of future ones; the rise of an imperially minded regime in China and rapid militarization of that country; and the shedding of inhibitions on the part of a depraved Russian dictator of Napoleonic bent, resulting in an ongoing horrifying amount of death and suffering and the peril-generating resumption of the Cold War.

The Goodhearted and the Scrooges

Ezra Klein wrote a moving piece in yesterday’s New York Times titled “America turned its back on the poorest families.” It was about the brief life of the expanded child tax credit of $3,000 for every child age 6 to 17 and $3,600 for every child under age 6 that lifted 3.4 million children above the poverty line for a while. As Klein and many others have pointed out, the credit didn’t just have the virtue of relieving hunger and misery, it greatly increased the chances that millions of children become functioning members of society rather than a burden on society in later life. A problem for those wanting to extend the credit was that financing it would have required scaling back some tax cuts and tax breaks favoring the rich and especially the super rich, a course of action that is anathema to Republicans. The scrooges in the Senate outnumbered the good-hearted, so the bill extending it was voted down.

Prosecuting Trump, continued

A good side-effect of prosecuting Trump and exposing his gross criminality is that it will deepen the rift between Republicans with some sense of honor and decency and those who are so besotted with Trump and so vulnerable to authoritarian propaganda that they can’t tell truth from falsehood and right from wrong even when which is which is clear as day from night.

Prosecuting Trump

There’s a strain of thought, which some fear infects Attorney General Merrick Garland, that a criminal prosecution of Trump would dangerously escalate polarization and divisiveness and invite retributive, banana republic-style actions against Democratic leaders if, as seems highly possible, Republicans regain power in 2024. I agree with those who believe that shying away from prosecuting Trump would be a possibly fatal mistake. I think that the best hope for this country is to shine the brightest light possible on the criminality of Trump and his allies and the threat they pose to American democracy. The House Select Committee, which has been investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection, appears to be of the same mind.

Religion and Public Schools

Right-wing extremist Republicans appear to be on the threshold of gaining control of Congress. They already comprise a solid majority of Supreme Court Justices. Their agenda includes interpreting the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion to give freedom to public school educators to inculcate children with their brand of Christianity. They ignore that freedom of religion is meant to include freedom from religion.

Special note to the person who wrote me in the past day or so referring to my essay “The View from Ninety”: I glanced at your email. It looked interesting, and I meant to read it when I had time, but it somehow disappeared from my in box. Perhaps I deleted it by mistake. In any case, thanks for writing and feel free to send it again, if you’d like.

The War

Like many others, I thought that Putin would have all but conquered Ukraine and installed a puppet government in Kiev within the first week, maybe within the first days, of the war. Even President Zelensky said (I think it was on the first day of the war), “I may not be alive tomorrow.” So where are we now? Putin is the epitome of evil. Ukraine is a nation of heroes.

The world is embroiled in a war between democracy and authoritarianism. If Putin thinks he can behave this way and get away with it — well, to quote John Donne, “Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Goodness Versus the Authoritarians

There seems to be a dangerously low level of appreciation in this country that, with very few exceptions, the Republican Party has become the authoritarian party. If Republicans gain control of Congress in this November’s elections, American democracy will fade away. If that sounds like an extremist prediction, consider that 121 Republican members of the House of Representatives voted against certifying President Biden’s election and 70% of Republicans believe or claim to believe Trump’s big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and there’s a lot more to be said about the Republican’s assault on democracy besides that.

We’re living in a time of extreme peril to American democracy, but most Democratcs and members of the media are sleepwalking through it. My Congressional district representative, Lauren Boebert, is one of the most extreme right-wing, MAGA cultist, and it’s fair to say, absolutely whacko, members of Congress; yet from the website of Sol Sandoval, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to oppose Boebert, one would think we’re living in ordinary times. Sandoval’s website reveals that she has worthy views on “education,” “jobs and economic opportunities,” “wildfires and preservation,” “healthcare,” and “immigration.” She’s silent on everything else. Sandoval is evidently a good person. I’m a big advocate of goodness, but it’s not enough.

Tax Structure, Continued

There are roughly 750 U.S. billionaires. Robert Reich points out that the aggregate wealth of U.S. billionaires is $4,600,000,000,000. If under a sensible tax system, half of that wealth had been taxed, the average such person would still be worth over six billion dollars and none of them would be worth less than 500 million dollars, so they would all still be quite well off, and the U.S. would have 2.3 trillion dollars to apply for the common good. Plutocracies and oligarchies are not the best way to organize and maintain a healthy society.

The Naysayers

All fifty Democratic senators and three Republican senators —Murkowski, Collins, and Romney — voted to confirm Biden’s superbly qualified nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the Supreme Court. Forty-seven Republican senators voted against her, thereby establishing, or having previously established, confirmed, that they were nihilists, cynics, miscreants, schmucks, or some combination thereof.

Future Headline You Can See Today

Headline: “Record heat to bake Calif. as April snowpack nears 70-year low.” Reading this tells us that there is a high probability that some months from now we can see a headline stating something like: “Record wildfires ravage California this year.”

The Maddening Fact

Putin is proving himself to be one of the most monstrous criminals in human history, yet the civilized world is obliged to exercise restraint in dealing with him because he apparently has the power to destroy most of the civilized world.

Some experts have noted that Putin is not suicidal, but because we’re speaking of a psychopath, there must be added to that observation, “so far.”

The Overriding Issue

Robert Reich on what the mid-term and 2024 elections are about: “It’s not Left versus Right, Democrat versus Republican.
It’s about democracy versus authoritarianism.”

Can Democrats get that across to the electorate by November?

Snow Pack and Climate Change

Headline: “California’s snowpack is now at 39 percent of average, or 23 percent lower than at the same point last year.” In my snowpack region, the San Juan Basin, in southwestern Colorado, snowpack reached peak two weeks earlier than the median date of peak — March 31. Such figures have little impact on public consciousness now, but it’s likely that their consequences will be manifest this summer, with water shortages and worse than average fires. If only there weren’t so many other very serious problems in the world, slowing climate change would be the top priority in every country. As it is, we’re losing ground.

The Emotional State of Teenagers

Headline: The Centers for Control and Prevention warns that
more than 40% of teenagers report feeling “persistently sad or
hopeless.”

This evidences that something is seriously wrong with our society. Congress should establish a commission to investigate the matter and make recommendations. If Congress is too dysfunctional to do so, some billionaire or a foundation should do so. If the problem is ignored, that will be further evidence that something is seriously wrong with our society. A big question is: How do you cultivate in young people a state of mind that produces cheerfulness and hopefulness?

Notes from Surreal Land

Headline: “Hackers hit popular video game, stealing more than $600 million in cryptocurrency.” The 600 million cryptobucks come from the pockets of players of the video game. They thought they were spending their crypto dollars to acquire virtual beasts that could act on their behalf in battles. Apparently, by upping their investments, they could breed these virtual beasts and generate more of them, increasing their forces and improving their chances of victorious combat. Lots of cryptobucks were spent in this enterprise. A bright spot is that, as far as I know, players still have the beasts they bought.

Should Trump Be Criminally Prosecuted? Opposing Considerations

I have a knowledgeable friend who believes that it would be unwise to prosecute Trump, because it might initiate a pattern in which each new president feels free to prosecute whomever he succeeds, a classic feature of banana republics. If the Justice Department in the Biden administration prosecutes Trump, it would indeed raise an outcry on the part of MAGA-type Republicans and propagandistic right-wing media personalities and increase the chances that, if the Republicans regain power, they will push for revenge prosecution of Biden. The trouble with my friend’s argument is that these considerations pale in comparison to the the principle that no person, even a president or former president of the United States, especially a president or former president of the United States, is above the law.

A Judge’s Finding and Garland’s Duty, continued

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin cited the opinion of constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe that “there is no honorable way for [Attorney General] Merrick Garland to avoid pursuing the path Judge Carter {the judge referred to in my blog yesterday} has not only clearly marked but blazingly illuminated.” What a breath of fresh air it would be if Trump is indicted, and if he is convicted for a grievous crime, it might signal American democracy’s release from the intensive care unit.

A Judge’s Finding and Garland’s Duty

A federal District Court judge has ruled that Trump’s lawyer, John Eastman, must provide documents to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. The basis for the judge’s ruling was that Trump and Eastman likely committed alleged crimes. The facts and the law support investigating and indicting Trump and Eastman. It’s Attorney General Merrick Garland’s duty to pursue the matter.

The Gray, the Good, and the Bad

Between the good and the bad there’s an enormous gray area. Sometimes an event is all gray. In the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week, the good and the bad stood out in high relief. The good comprised Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and her eloquent and moving supporter, Senator Cory Booker. The bad comprised, principally, Republican senators Lindsay Graham, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, and Ted Cruz, each of whom misbehaved in the extreme in directing a fusillade of histrionic, irrelevant, cynical, mean-spirited, obfuscating questions and observations at the nominee, which none of these men appeared to realize accomplished nothing other than to demonstrate the unfitness of each of them to hold public office.

History in the Making

Observing the course of events since Putin initiated his attempt to conquer Ukraine feels like being in a hurricane that is causing tremendous damage, though it has yet to make landfall. At this point, Cold War II has reached an intensity not seen since the Berlin airlift in Cold War I.

Animal Cruelty

Headline: “Most animal cruelty is legal on a farm.”

Everyone knows that animal cruelty is bad. But in many instances it’s legal if conducted in the process of producing food for human consumption. Until that’s no longer the case, we can not assume that we’re living in an enlightened society. From the standpoint of many animals, most humans are no better we think Putin is.

Helping Ukraine: Gas and Oil Policy

Putin’s campaign of bringing massive death and destruction upon Ukraine is a crisis of utmost gravity. The United States needs to help reduce Europe’s oil and gas dependency on Russia. We should reduce domestic oil and gas usage in order to have a surplus to supply Europe, lessening Europe’s dependance on Russia. Conversation, a carbon tax, and a windfall profits taxes on fossil fuel companies should be instituted immediately.

Hypocrisy in the Extreme

t
In a Washington Post column yesterday, Jennifer Rubin cited a recent Post headline — “More than two dozen Senate Republicans demand Biden do more for Ukraine after voting against $13.6 billion for Ukraine.” Here you have a revealing portrait of Republican hypocrisy exhibited even when national security is at stake: Undermine Biden; then claim that he’s not doing enough. Whatever he does, it’s wrong, even if it’s what they would do themselves.

With a handful of exceptions, Republican senators refused to convict Trump after he tried to get Ukraine President Zelensky to do him a political “favor” as a condition of providing Congressionally authorized military aid. These people now say that Biden hasn’t done enough.

Sometimes One Sentence Says a Lot

Senator Bernie Sanders: “This is what oligarchy looks like: Today, the 10 richest people in the world own more wealth than the bottom 37% — 3.1 billion people.”

The Breadbasket

Ukraine has long been one of the biggest producers of food, especially grain. Putin no longer can expect Ukraine to be united with mother Russia. What’s left of Ukraine when he’s through bombing and shelling it can never be more than a thorn in his side. But once enough Ukrainians are dead, disabled, or have fled to the West, even though he can’t annex the country, he may be able to annex its farmland — its breadbasket.

Thinking about Putin’s Off Ramp

If I recall correctly, during the Vietnam War, Senator Aiken, of Vermont, suggested that we pull out of Vietnam and say we won. There’s a lesson for Putin. As just about everyone agrees, Putin can’t afford to lose his war with Ukraine. He needs an off ramp, and it has to include his “winning the war.” This suggests to me a possible settlement, which provides for (i) an immediate and permanent cease-fire; (ii) an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine; (iii) Putin keeps Crimea and portions of the two eastern provinces that were not under full Ukrainian control before Russia’s “special military action”; (iv) it’s agreed that any “Nazis” in Ukraine who were threatening Russia have been eliminated; (v) Western government sanctions are lifted; (vi) Ukraine and Russia sign a permanent non-aggression pact; (vii) Ukraine membership in NATO is banned, but it is understood that NATO will fully protect Ukraine, as if Ukraine were a member, in the event it is attacked again.

Putin can claim that Russia won the war: It achieved its objective in protecting Russian interests in Ukraine and in teaching Ukraine a lesson, thereby ensuring that Ukraine will never threaten Russia’s sovereignty again.

Not part of the settlement, but not foreclosed by it, and with or without support of Russia, Western nations must provide massive relief and rehabilitation for Ukraine, including its military forces, Putin remains an international pariah, subject to war crimes prosecution for life, and the truth seeps into the consciousness of most Russians that that Putin’s aggression was a monstrous contemptible act that weakened and disgraced Russia, and that his war was not a win for a Russia, but a shameful loss.

My Favorite Charity

My favorite charity is the Nuclear Threat Initiative. This non-profit organization sent me a rundown on what their goals are and what they have been doing. I’ll just mention the first of them here: “Take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. Decision-makers in the U.S. and Russia currently only have a few minutes to decide if a possible nuclear attack is real and whether to retaliate. NTI has called on both sides to work with their militaries to increase decision time and continues to work with members of Congress and the executive branch to make this happen in the U.S.” 

Nothing is more important.

What Next? Speculative Thoughts

Putin expected Ukraine to reject Western liberalism and nestle docilely within the Russian orbit. There is zero chance of that happening now, because, after the unrelenting death and destruction he has inflicted upon them, Ukrainians are almost unanimous in their hatred of him and in their unwillingness to accede to his demands.

Putin’s immediate goal is to break Ukraine’s back and its will and seize control of the country. If he succeeds, it will take him awhile to regroup and decide what steps to take next in his campaign to restore the glorious Russian Empire of his imagination. The world will settle into Cold War II. If Putin fails to gain control of Ukraine, or he gains control, but Russian forces suffer prolonged attrition in continuing battles and guerrilla warfare in the rubble of Ukraine’s cities, and, despite not having access to anything but state-sponsored propaganda, ordinary Russians begin to perceive that Putin has grossly miscalculated, he may escalate the war out of desperation and fear of being humiliated, for example, as Russian-American expert Masha Gessen speculates is possible, by launching nuclear-armed missiles on airbases in Poland, forcing NATO to respond, initiating a widening of the war, a desirable development as far as Putin is concerned, because it would be congenial with his propaganda line that he is leading Russia in a heroic defense against Western powers that are trying to destroy it.

Evil and Good

Did you see the news clip yesterday of Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian TV producer who, in a stunning act of bravery, inserted herself on camera in a state-sponsored prime time “news” (propaganda) show and, with dignity and professional demeanor, decry the war and cruelty Putin has been inflicting on the Ukrainian people and the lies fed to the Russian people about it? She was, of course, “detained.” As a result of a new law, Russians can be sentenced to fifteen years in prison for saying that the war is a war, rather than a “special military operation.” Her offense — spreading the truth about Putin and the misinformation spewed by Russian State media — was far worse. Every day in the news are juxtaposed scenes of unalloyed evil with ones of astonishing heroism and dedication to what is right and good.

Hopeful Realism

The world and our country had more than enough challenging problems before Putin invaded Ukraine. Now, every day brings new disturbing and sickening news. Ukraine turns out to be a nation of heroes, and that’s inspirational, but the toll of death and destruction is horrifying. Seeking any scrap of good news yesterday, I clicked on E. J. Dionne’s column, titled “The Case for Hopeful Realism,” in the online Washington Post. As Dionne noted, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded us of how puny and recklessly trivial our nation’s debate has become.” The chances of some constructive legislation by Congress seems to have improved. Could an uptick in the incidence of good will and good faith be in the making as well? We can’t be sure, but it’s not unrealistic to hope so.

Trump, Republican Senators, and Zelensky

Among the most shameful of Trump’s many foul deeds was his attempted shakedown the newly elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, conditioning release of Congressionally authorized military assistance on Zelensky’s doing him “a favor.” Trump’s venality and tolerance of it by Republicans helped convince Putin that America was weak, corrupt, and divided and would not be a serious obstacle to carrying out his grandiose and horrific plans. Republican senators* who voted against convicting Trump in his impeachment trial are a shameful lot. None of them deserves to be reelected.
__________________
*The only one who voted to convict Trump and is running for reelection this year is Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska.

Attorney General Garland Should Appoint a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Trump

Some people worry that if Trump is investigated and prosecuted for his criminal behavior, it will increase divisiveness and stir up accusations of political vengefulness and emulate banana republic style regime changes in which an ousted president is routinely thrown in jail. Indeed, there would be such outcries from the right-wing camp if Trump is prosecuted, but for guardians of the law and American democracy to be intimidated by that prospect would be a grievously worse. As Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe has written, Attorney General Merrick Garland should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Trump.

Given the gravity of his alleged crimes, overwhelming evidence of which is already enshrined in the public record, it would be a devastating tragedy if fears of political fallout deterred the Justice Department from upholding the principle that no person is above the law.

Negotiating with a Sociopath

Negotiation is a superior method of resolving disputes. It’s sometimes said that when both parties are dissatisfied with a settlement, it’s probably a just one. Negotiations tend to be drawn out. Each party wants to compromise as little as possible, so concessions aren’t made readily. Often there’s a point when talks appear to have broken down; then at the last minute there’s a breakthrough. That’s the way it works at best, when both sides are negotiating in good faith. This can’t be expected when one of the parties is a sociopath.

Such a party is likely to just be pretending to negotiate, their main aim being to drag things out as long as possible. That’s why when you’re negotiating with someone like Putin, you have to try to construct a situation where time is not on his side. Then instead of each party making a series of little concessions, bit by bit over a long period of time, inching toward an agreement, a better strategy in my opinion is to make a relatively attractive offer from your opponent’s point of view, but put a strict time limit on it; Make them understand that it’s not a standing offer; that it’s strictly contingent on being accepted within a very short timeframe. In the Ukraine situation where a lot more death, destruction, and suffering happens every day, you must do every thing possible to achieve a quick settlement.

Stopping the Killing and Destruction

Headline: “Intermediaries seek diplomatic opening, despite gloom:”

Putin doesn’t care in the slightest how much death, destruction, and suffering he causes. His only interest is in trying to satisfy his craving for power and victory and projecting an image of himself as someone who is strong and clever and a great historic leader. His megalomania may be so extreme that it is no more possible to negotiate with him than with a rabid wild animal, but if, despite indications to the contrary, he is still capable of rational self-interest, a diplomatic solution might be possible. To achieve that it will be necessary to convince him that time is not on his side. For example, if the government of Ukraine is in agreement with such an initiative, I can imagine making him what, given the alternative, he would regard as an attractive offer — the scenario I outlined in my blog yesterday is an example. Whatever offer is made to him, it must be gotten across to him that it is unequivocally contingent on an immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities, that it will expire within a stated number of hours, and will under no circumstances be renewed. He must understand that long drawn-out negotiation is not an option, that this is a chance to self-justify himself that he will never, under any circumstances, have again.

Is a Negotiated Peace with Russia Possible?

Putin’s mindset is such that he can’t stop the war, pull his armed forces out of Ukraine, and admit that invading that country was a bad idea. He can’t bear the thought of how humiliating it would be for him to back down. And since he doesn’t care in the slightest how many innocent people he kills and maims, it’s highly likely that he will keep up his military assault until, after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and tens of thousands of Russians die and much of Ukraine’s buildings and infrastructure have been destroyed, Russian forces physically control what’s left of the major cities of Ukraine and he has installed a puppet regime, which will have to deal with an extremely hostile citizenry and guerilla attacks by survivors for an indefinite period. Putin can declare victory, but it will be pyrrhic victory as will become evident even to the Russian people.

A least worst (which is still necessarily very bad) diplomatic solution would be desirable before even further tragedy is piled onto what has already occurred. Here’s one that might be acceptable to all parties. Crimea and Ukraine’s two eastern provinces claimed and presently occupied by Russia will be ceded to Russia. Ukraine’s continuing existence as a sovereign self-determining nation will be guaranteed by all parties. NATO will not be constrained in admitting any new country to the alliance except Ukraine. (It will be an unspecified but realistic fact that NATO will establish and maintain military superiority over Russia.) NATO and Russia will enter into a nonaggression pact. Although Ukraine will not be part of NATO, NATO will pledge to defend Ukraine if Russia attacks Ukraine in violation of the nonaggression pact. Sanctions against Russia will be lifted. Russia will foreswear attacking any other European country and understand that an attack on one will be treated as an attack on all. All parties will contribute to a robust rehabilitation and relief plan for Ukraine. Russia and NATO countries will agree to enter into good faith nuclear and conventional arms control negotiations.

What I Imagine Is the Message and the Only Message (with variations) Russians Are Hearing and Reading:

Russia could not stand idle while the Nazi regime running Ukraine committed genocide in Russian-speaking provinces that are really part of Russia, as was all of Ukraine historically and should be again. The West, embodied in the evil NATO alliance, has been sending the Ukrainians armaments and using the situation as an excuse to undermine Russia and the Russian people in a vengeful conspiracy to expand their power at Russian expense. The main criminal responsible for this is U.S. president Biden, who stole the 2020 election and isolated president Trump, with whom president Putin had a good relationship, as a result of which both countries prospered. All that has changed with the Ukrainian aggression spurred by Biden and fueled by NATO countries.

We, the Russian people, have been through this before. Once again, the Western fascists have underestimated us. It will take time. It will mean enduring hardship, but we will not be deterred. We are a proud people. No one will abuse us with impunity. We will fight, and we will teach these conspirators and fascist murderers a lesson they will never forget.

The Russian People

About 30% of the U.S. population believe Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen by Biden. They believe it because they have been mainly or fully exposed to Trumpian propaganda disseminated by Fox News and other radical right-wing propagandistic media outlets. This is in a country with plenty of access to legitimate responsible sources of news. Imagine if Americans had no source other than these radical right-wing propaganda outlets. Probably a majority of Americans would believe malicious falsehoods like Trump’s Big Lie.

In recent years, Putin has increasingly suppressed dissent and independent media in Russia. In order to suppress the truth about the invasion of Ukraine and the horrors he has inflicted on the Ukrainian people, he has gone into full-fledged totalitarian mode, threatening 15-year prison terms for anyone caught expressing an opinion or reporting any news that’s not in accord with the state-sponsored propaganda. No wonder Ukrainians say that some Russian relatives they’ve communicated with can’t believe that Russia is guilty of brutal, baseless, unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.

The truth seeps in through the cracks, however, as is evident from the fact that thousands of Russians have risked being beaten up or imprisoned for long terms for protesting Putin’s wanton aggression. In supporting Ukraine, Western powers should be scrupulously circumspect in showing respect for Russian sovereignty and the Russian people. It is their evil ruler and his cabal that is our enemy, not the Russian people, whom we should do as much as we can to enlighten about the true facts. Putin can only delay, but never prevent, the day coming when most Russians will revile him, as they would now if they knew the facts.

Quote of the Week

“None of these intelligence services can go into Putin’s head and understand what’s in there.” Alar Karis, president of Estonia

We do know that Putin must feel intensely frustrated that Ukraine didn’t collapse into his arms; that the West would have been so strongly supportive of Ukraine; that such severe sanctions would be instituted; and that the NATO countries would become far more united and resolute in response to his actions. His greatest fear — that he will be humiliated — must loom large in his thinking. He will doubtless doubtless consider what extreme measures he could take to avoid humiliation.

America’s Response to Putin’s Aggression

Although we must rigorously avoid threatening or being drawn into armed conflict with a nuclear-armed country run by a deranged dictator, we should accept the need to take additional measures and accept sacrifices on a scale that would be required in a major war. That means joining with our European allies in banning Russian oil and gas and making up the shortfall by producing more ourselves and using less of it, instituting a much more progressive tax system, accepting large numbers of Ukrainian refugees, working with our NATO allies to bolster frontline defenses; providing a great deal of humanitarian aid, and taking other important measures I don’t have the expertise to specify here. Sadly, one of our two major political parities has no agenda other than to undermine the Biden Administration and is itself largely committed to authoritarianism and all that goes with it.

The Situation

At some point in the course of their education, every student of history thinks, “Thank God Hitler didn’t get the bomb.” Now, four-fifths of a century later, Putin, who has shown himself to be on the same moral plane as Hitler, has the bomb. The U.S. is severely hampered by its own authoritarian party. Super rich, greedy people are riding high. People of good will must be resolute and never give in to cynicism or despair.

Putin’s Fallback Strategy

Putin thought he could replace the western-oriented democratic regime in Ukraine with one that would bring the country firmly within the Russian orbit. That hasn’t worked out and can’t work out because of the rightful revulsion the vast majority of Ukrainians now feel toward Putin. Presumably, Putin now understands this reality. So what is his fallback strategy? I suspect that it’s to so weaken Ukraine– to so transform it to a shell of its former self –– that it will be more of a burden than an asset to the West. Putin’s mindset is: If I can’t have it, at least I can make sure they can’t have it.

Common Characteristics That Cause a Lot of Problems

bigotry
maliciousness
triumphalism
resentfulness
cold-heartedness
mean-spiritedness
narcissism
cowardice
lack of moral compass
nihilism
greed
lust for power and status
absence of interest in the public good.
cynicism
indifference to suffering

A Washington Post Extreme Right-Wing Columnist

The Washington Post has a number of excellent columnists, all of whom see clearly what’s happened to the Republican Party and nearly the whole caboodle of Republican politicians, who instead of repudiating Trump and his depraved way of thinking and behavior, chose to emulate and support him. In an effort to offer readers a wide range of views, the Post carries columns of two or three right-wing propagandists who operate on this same base moral plane. The most consistent of these miscreants is a fellow named Marc A. Thiessen. Yesterday, a column of his was headlined: “Americans think the state of the union is a disaster.” To the extent there’s any truth in that statement it’s because a great number of people in powerful positions in this country have a state of mind similar to that of Marc A. Thiessen.

A Tale of Two Headlines

1. “Climate change is harming the planet faster than we can adapt, U.N. warns.”

2. “The Supreme Court will hear the biggest climate change case in a decade. It could hinder the E.P.A.’s efforts to reduce pollution.”

The Supreme Court is now solidly controlled by right-wing ideologues who want to limit the power of government agencies to apply laws aimed at protecting the public.

The Prospect

Putin apparently thought that the threat of overwhelming force would cow the Ukrainians into swift submission to a Russian takeover of that country. That seemed to me to be a reasonable supposition. I am in awe of Ukraine’s resistance and the bravery and leadership of President Zelensky, who declined an offer to be evacuated to a safe place.

Putin may now regret his decision to invade and conquer Ukraine, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll back off. Russian forces will likely take control of the country in the coming days. After much bloodshed, opposition will be reduced to occasional attacks on occupying forces and Russian puppet rulers. Putin will claim that the terrible toll taken on Ukraine and on Russians proves that Ukraine was run by terrorists and Nazis just as he had said. The world will settle into a tense, anxious, bristling, ugly, dangerous state as Cold War II begins to take shape.

Cold War II

“This is the last time you may see me alive,” President Zelensky of Ukraine said in speech yesterday. Putin wants to kill him, or at least imprison him for the crime of not betraying his country. Shame piled on shame until they are neck deep in it on Trump and Trumpians sympathetic to Putin. Why do they act in such a morally depraved way? It’s because enemies of democracy think that it’s important to stick together.

Putin has chosen to initiate Cold War II. For the West to survive and prevail, as it did in Cold War I, will take patience, sacrifice, courage, restraint, resolution, honesty, and rational thinking.

Putin

As far as I know, Putin isn’t consumed with hatred and murderous intent toward Jews the way Hitler was, but in his rhetoric, his obsessive-compulsive drive to conquer and control, and his absolute ruthlessness, viciousness, and indifference to suffering, his mentality appears to be indistinguishable from Hitler’s, and he has what Hitler lacked, a tremendous nuclear arsenal, which he has lately taken to bragging about. For the foreseeable future, we’ll be living in very dangerous times.

Putin’s Motivation

Woven in with Putin’s most basic motivation for conquering Ukraine — his obsession with restoring the Russian empire to the glorious perch it occupied during the Soviet era — is his fear of Ukraine becoming a flourishing democratic country with a strong economy and free expression and fair elections, a brightening beacon of liberty right in Russia’s face, with a great deal of communication between citizens of the two countries. Despite Putin’s control of the media and suppression of dissenters and disobedient journalists, the example of what a free country is like, seeping across the border, would be certain to stir dissatisfaction among Russians with Putin’s repressive rule. The Washington Post’s slogan is “Democracy dies in darkness.” The unspoken slogan of authoritarian regimes is “Tyranny is imperiled by by light.”

Trump and Putin

It’s not hard to imagine a conversation Trump is having about now with one of his trusted sycophants, Trump saying, “Putin is a tremendous guy. He’s doing what he should be doing, making Russia great again.” Trump enjoys thinking of himself and Putin as two tremendous guys making their countries great again.

The MAGA slogan helped Trump reach the White House, though he didn’t have any idea of how to make America great or care whether America was great. He just had a slogan. Putin doesn’t have a slogan but he actually wants to make Russia great again. His idea of that is restoring the Russian imperial empire to what it was when he started working for the KGB. He’s obsessed with the idea of restoring Russia to what he sees as its former glory. His obsession, rather than rational thought, is his guide.

History in the Making

History in the making seems to be a matter of lulls and big events, with undercurrents flowing all the time. In some ways it’s like geology, where forces are at work all the time but are not noticeable except to experts who are aware of stresses building up that at some point will result in a devastating earthquake or volcanic eruption. It seems to me that in recent years, big events have been piling up at an unusual rate, e.g. the election of a sociopathic aspiring autocrat as president of the United States in 2016; the failure of the Republican Party and the great majority of Republicans to repudiate him and hold him accountable, in effect adopting his moral ethos as their own; the rise of authoritarianism and brutalism and weakening of democratic institutions throughout the world; the stark failure of humanity to combat global warming; the transition of the Supreme Court of the United States into an instrument for implementing an extreme right-wing agenda; the great pandemic and threat of future ones; the rise of an imperially minded regime in China and rapid militarization of that country; and, as demonstrated in recent days and weeks, the shedding of inhibitions on the part of a Russian dictator of Napoleonic bent, resulting in a grave threat to world stability and a peril-generating resumption of the Cold War.

Putin the Protector

Headline: “Putin may go to war to capture Ukraine. With Belarus, he did it without firing a shot.” How did this happen? Belarus’s repulsive strongman dictator Alexander Lukashenko used to be proud of his country’s independence. But then his tyrannical practices produced such a terrific backlash that he was in danger of being ousted from office. Putin said to him, we can assume, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you from your ungrateful citizens. We’ll move in plenty of troops and tanks that will prevent any chance of a revolution and as an added gift protect you from conquest by Poland. We were of great help to the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, a brutal dictator just like you, so you know our heart is in the right place.”

Putin doesn’t need to conquer Ukraine if he can install a government subservient to him in that country. It’s for their own good, after all. They need protection from the West.

Inequality Writ Large

Professor Robert Reich is a master of economic statistics. He often lines up a few next to each other in a way that packs a punch. He recently pointed out that 745 billionaires became $2.1 trillion richer during the pandemic, while 3.7 million children slipped back into poverty last month because the plutocrat-beholden Congress refused to extend the $300 a month per child tax credit. One in six children in America live in poverty. The dice is stacked against them. Greed is paramount.

The Awful Truth

Jennifer Rubin, in my opinion the most astute of the Washington Post columnists, conducts a question and answer live “chat” most Fridays. Yesterday, one of her longtime followers noted that she used to be a solid Republican and asked what her reason was for leaving the Republican Party. Her answer was brief and to the point: “Their repudiation of democracy and devolution into a cult based upon a web of lies.” This is the awful truth; yet the Republicans are favored to win control of the House and have a good chance of winning control of the senate in this November elections.

Trump is in a Tough Spot

Trump and two of his children have been ordered to be deposed in a legal proceeding relating to alleged fraudulent conduct by the Trump Organization.There’s no prospect that the order will be reversed. It looks like Trump will have to either refuse to appear, in which case he will be held in contempt of court, appear and plead the Fifth Amendment, an admission that he’s afraid he might have committed a crime, lie in his testimony, thereby subjecting himself to prosecution for perjury, or tell the truth, which would likely involve admitting to have committed a crime. This is a tough spot for him to be in, which is as it should be. He may find himself in even tougher spots in the months ahead.

Critical Race Theory and Reactions To It.

As I understand it, critical race theory (CRT) is the theory that there has always been a systemic discrimination in the U.S. against people of color that puts them and keeps them at a disadvantage. If you are teaching critical race theory, I suppose you would discuss specific examples in American history that illustrate why you believe critical race theory is true.

A lot of people feel that students exposed to critical race theory and historical examples supporting it may feel uncomfortable and ashamed that they belong to the white race. Some Republican-controlled states have passed laws aimed at restricting not only the teaching of critical race theory, but even teaching about historical facts that could be marshaled to support critical race theory.

News Lead: “The provisions in 13 states are vague, and tip lines allow parents to report on instructors who violate them. As a result, teachers and principals around the country report a chilling effect, where they are changing what they say in the classroom.”

It appears that, under some of these laws, a teacher of American history could be held criminally or civilly liable or be fired for discussing the prevalence of lynching of black people during certain times and in certain regions of the United States even if no mention is made of “critical race theory.” Are teachers not allowed to discuss the phenomenon of critical race theory?

Such laws are a pox upon our country and apparently a sign of the times.

Putin, Trump, and Biden

Whatever happens in the Ukraine confrontation, it’s worth recalling that, throughout his tenure in office, Trump acted like Putin’s vassal. If Trump had won reelection or succeeded in his attempted coup and were now in power, Putin would have his way: NATO and western unity would be severely weakened and would likely be forced to make concessions that would have serious deleterious effects. Thanks to Biden and his team, Putin’s fascist style military posturing with respect to Ukraine has largely unified and reinvigorated the Western alliance and diminished Putin’s bargaining strength.

Nothing can be gained and much can be lost by appeasing a bully, a good principle to remember when dealing with people like Putin or Trump.

Liberty, Libertarianism, Anarchy, and Fascism.

Liberty is limited by a reasonable respect for the rights of others. Hence, free speech does not include the right to falsely cry Fire! in a crowded theater.

Libertarianism includes liberty for the most part but without respecting the rights of others. An example is the way that
libertarians oppose background checks as a requisite to gun ownership.

Anarchy is libertarianism in the extreme. An example is a conspiracy among truckers to block international bridges for prolonged periods to protest vaccines mandates. The right of free expression in this context falls far short of justifying acting in such a destructive manner. Republican Senator Ron Paul stepped across the line from libertarianism to anarchism when he urged truckers to “clog” American cities.

Fascism is ruthless form of autocracy that wantonly deprives people of liberty to the extent it suits the purposes of the fascist regime in power. Although fascism — heavy handed to total control over public and private affairs — is at the opposite pole from anarchy, fascists seeking to gain power find anarchistic behavior congenial to their purposes. A society beset by anarchistic behavior is vulnerable to fascistic aspirants, who typically claim that only by putting them in power can order be restored.

A Word about Words

As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has pointed out, it is misleading and inappropriate to associate the word “conservative” with the word “Republican.” The Republican Party used to be conservative. But a party whose Congressional representatives and senators, to give just one stunning example — and many others are available — almost unanimously opposed a Congressional investigation of the January 6, 2021, insurrection and occupation of the Capitol and terrorizing of members of Congress causing a number of deaths and over a hundred injuries in support of a concerted effort to overturn the legitimate election of Joe Biden as president in the November 2020 election is not conservative. Far more apt, as Rubin says, are “right wing,” “radical,” “extreme,” and “authoritarian.”

A Bad Time Watching the Evening News

It was a grim experience watching the evening news yesterday — Chris Hayes on MSNBC: eight million people in Afghanistan are at risk of starvation, and Biden appears to be botching disposition of seven billion dollars of frozen Afghan liquid assets; spreading anarchy and aggressive nihilism evidenced by the Canadian truckers blockades, a movement encouraged by malevolent right-wing extremists on both sides of the border; yet more evidence of the Trump’s profoundly anti-social behavior and imitation and normalization of it by most Republican politicians; the seeming flaccidity of the Justice Department in the face of the pressing need for aggressive investigations and prosecutions of horrific wrongdoings; the structural defects in our Constitution and laws that deeply undermine American democracy; the cultivation of ignorance and mean-spiritedness by right-wing media and politicians; Putin acting like Hitler, enthralled by the phalanxes of super tanks he has massed on three sides of Ukraine. What next? Be resolute and try to be a force for the good whatever happens is my philosophy.

The Information / Response Gap

We’re supposed to be living in the “information age.” Information is supposed to be widely and quickly distributed. Yet there’s an appalling gap between solidly established facts and public response. Getting vaccinated and getting a booster shot has been thoroughly and overwhelmingly shown to greatly reduce the risk of getting a Covid infection, or if you do get a Covid infection, tremendously reducing the risk of hospitalization and the risk of death. Vaccination is free and readily obtainable in the U.S. Getting vaccinated and a booster shot is a quintessential “no brainer,” i.e. you don’t even need a brain to know that you should get vaccinated and get a booster shot. Yet only 44% of eligible Americans have gotten booster shots. This kind of enormous gap between information and response is at the root of much of what’s wrong with this country. As to its cause — that’s a big and complex topic.

The Supreme Court and Absolute Corruption

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”: Putin has virtually absolute power in Russia, and has become absolutely corrupt. The Supreme Court of the United States has absolute power in respect of cases brought before it. Five justices of the Supreme court have conclusively demonstrated that they will be guided by their right-wing ideology rather than the law. Each of them has power and each is corrupt. Because they constitute a majority of the court and determine how the court rules, collectively they have absolute power and are absolutely corrupt. They all hold life tenure and none show any signs that they will retire in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the Court will continue to be absolutely corrupt for the foreseeable future. The control of the Court by right-wing ideologues has already had a damaging effect on American democracy and may turn out to be the principal agent of its destruction.

Putin and Absolute Corruption

Certain famous sayings stick in my mind. One of them, said to be Lord Acton’s dictum, is “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Judging by the mansions I understand he has scattered here and there, power corrupted Vladimir Putin. Lately, by means of brutal suppression of political adversaries, his power in Russia has ramped up close enough to the absolute level to make me wonder how he would act if became corrupted absolutely. Indeed, that may already have happened.

Absolute corruption can’t be just a matter of acquiring even greater amounts of material wealth. Surely it must involve something dramatic, something history making, something that makes the person with absolute power feel like he’s the master of the universe. Something on the order of another mansion or a bigger yacht wouldn’t satisfy that need. A whole country might seem to, at least for a while. Ukraine has become an obsession for Putin. His desire to control it may have crowded out everything else in his brain. Predicting how he will behave is virtually impossible. It’s a feature of his absolute corruption that one can’t expect him to be a rational man, much less a reasonable man, much less a good man.

Poverty and Policy

Robert Reich recently posted a powerful opinion piece on Facebook: The child tax credit that lifted more than one-third of impoverished children out of poverty expired. A coalition of every Republican senator plus Democratic Senator Joe Manchin blocked renewing it, claiming it was too costly. Reich lays out how modest tax increases on the rich, or a modest wealth tax, or a reversal of Trump tax cuts for the rich and especially for the super rich would more than fund this enlightened program. Given the incessant growth of income and wealth inequality in this country, it has the appearance of being run by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Lowering the Standards for Lying.

In the old days, when we had higher standards, liars were obliged to limit themselves to plausible falsehoods, assertions that listeners would conceivably think might be true. In the culture that obtained then, if you lied, it would be against your interests to be caught. For Fascist types, such as presently abound in the Republican Party, this requirement has gone by the boards. Thus, the Republican National Committee feels free to characterize the Jan 6, 2021, insurrection as “ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse,” even though anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with what happened that day knows that this is a lie. We don’t have to find the true facts that cause the liar to be “caught.” The true facts are in plain sight and a matter of public record.

The custom among Republicans now, which is right out of the authoritarian playbook, is to not concern yourself with whether your lie can be shown to be false. Just keep repeating it no matter how obvious it is that it’s false. Repeat, repeat, and repeat, preferably in an indignant tone of voice. Accuse people who point out the true facts of lying. Try to intimidate them into shutting up, so they don’t interfere with your spreading your lie, repeating it and amplifying it until more people believe it.

Two Universes: Republican and Democratic

The Republican National Committee’s censuring Republican representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for serving on the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th, 2021, insurrection reveals how the Republican and Democratic parties inhabit separate universes. If you’re a Democrat, you are likely to be censured by the Democratic leadership if you lie; if you’re a Republican, you’re likely to be censured by the Republican leadership if you tell the truth.

Notes from Surreal Land

Yesterday the Republican National Committee voted to censure Republican representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for serving on the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th, 2021, insurrection, attack on, vandalizing, and occupation of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob intent on overturning the 2020 presidential election that terrorized members of Congress and resulted in a number of deaths and numerous injuries. The Republican leaders said censure was justified because the investigation is a “persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

This characterization of the events of that day is so far removed from the bounds of reality that it would be risible if it weren’t conclusive evidence of the moral disintegration of most Republican office holders and officials, signifying a departure from the norms of civilized behavior that is bizarre, distressing, and demonstrative that we are living in a gravely troubling era of American history.

Trump and the Lyrics of the National Anthem

At one of his recent MAGA cult rallies, Trump urged his followers, many of whom own deadly weapons and have displayed a tendency toward violence, to take to the streets if he is indicted. Trump hopes that prosecutors will hold back from indicting him out of fear of unrest, violence, and revenge killings on a scale that would fracture our civil society. This is a form of demanding protection money or you’ll get a bullet through your head. A recent letter to the editor published in the New York Times argues that, to preserve the peace. prosecutors should accede to Trump’s demands.

If Trump isn’t prosecuted because of fear that if he is indicted, he will unleash his army of thuggish followers, the lyrics of our National Anthem will have to be changed to delete the phrase, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” in all four stanzas in which it appears.

Hogan for President?

Maryland Republican Larry Hogan attracts attention because he has twice been elected governor in a generally Democratic state. He is one of the few highly placed Republicans who has been sufficiently honorable to repudiate Trump. Could he successfully run against Trump in a Republican primary? Astute Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin likes the idea. She suggests that a ticket of Hogan and Liz Cheney, or Hogan and anti-Trump Republican governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson would carry a lot of weight. But isn’t a solid majority of Republicans pro-Trump? Wouldn’t Trump prevail over even fairly formable candidates opposing him in a primary? Maybe so but maybe not, especially since Trump’s criminality is likely to be increasingly exposed during the next couple of years in the course of investigations and litigation. If Hogan won the primary, the Republican Party could be restored to legitimacy, and the country saved from being under the thumb of a dangerous sociopath. Even if Trump prevailed in the primary, Hogan would have performed a great service to the country in demonstrating what the Republican Party could stand for if it was willing to extract itself from the moral quagmire it’s slipped into by tolerating and supporting Trump. If Hogan runs against Trump, it would be a salutary development at the least, and might be the catalyst that saves our democracy.

How Long Can Republicans Stand It?

As more and more damning revelations come to light about Trump’s criminal and seditious hands-on efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, bring American democracy to an end, and install himself as the authoritarian ruler of the country, will more than two or three Republican members of Congress find it intolerable to continue to support him explicitly or implicitly? Will more than pitifully few of them discern that there is a limit to how much farther they will degrade themselves in the name of party unity and personal electoral survival? Will some of these frogs jump out of the pot before the water boils?

Trump

At a recent rally of MAGA cultists in Texas, Trump let loose with a display of high-pitched demagoguery in the course of which he made clear that he tried and is still trying to overturn the 2020 election. He called on his followers to take to the streets if he is indicted. Trump is a classic bully, trying to get what he wants through intimidation. “Cross me, and you’ll regret it” is his message. He is dangerous rather than just buffoonish because he is tolerated and encouraged by powerful cynics and opportunists and because hordes of malicious, deluded, resentful, thuggish characters are inclined to indulge their worst impulses on his behalf.

The Supreme Court of the United States: Implementer of Right-Wing Ideology

I’ve seen data showing that people infected with the Covid virus are 50 times more likely to die from it than people who have been vaccinated and received booster shots. It’s hard to grasp the intellectual depravity of the six ideologically driven right-wing Supreme Court justices who struck down the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule that, during this health emergency, large businesses must require employees to be either vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid. The justices’s stated rationale, which has no basis in law or as a matter of common sense, was that the health hazard the rule addressed existed outside the workplace as well as within it. Nothing in the Constitution, applicable statutes, or in administrative law supports such a distinction as having legal significance.

In ruling as they did, these justices will cause many illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. In his dissent, Justice Breyer wrote, “Underlying everything else in this dispute is a single, simple question: Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from covid-19? . . . An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?”

The Saturating Effect of Writing a Novel

I’m very close to finishing writing a novel. I knew that if it was to have a chance of being any good, I would have to get saturated in it. I would have to feel that I was living in the fictional world I created, so much so that I had to know a lot more about it than is set down in the text.

I realized that this would have to be the case when I read that James Joyce knew how exactly how much money Leopold Bloom had in his pocket every minute of the day during which the action in Ulysses takes place.

Of course, I don’t claim to be as meticulous as Joyce, much less closer than very distant from the circle of literary geniuses in which he resides, but I am experiencing that effect of saturation which gives one the feeling of living in a different world. I wonder if this is the way video game addicts feel, especially when playing cutting edge virtual reality metaverse games that enthusiasts feel show the way to how life really (or unreally) should be lived.

The Republican Crime Wave

The records turned over to the House Select Committee to Investigate the Insurrection after the Supreme Court blocked Trump’s attempt to keep them in their file cabinets have further revealed the enormity and scope of the effort by Republican politicians and their allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The Committee has subpoenaed fourteen people involved in the scheme to submit a fake slate of electors from seven swing states in which, in each such state, real electors had certified that Biden had won the popular vote. There is a good chance that the Committee will bring more than enough evidence to light to warrant committing scores of seditious plotters to the hall of shame, if not a lengthy stay in prison. There’s no shortage of damning facts that will be brought out into the open. Enough voters should be enlightened by these revelations to swing enough elections this November to place firm control of Congress in control of Democrats. Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely to happen for reasons too complex to explore here today. Maybe I’ll try tomorrow.

Trump, DeSantis, and the Republican Deep Bench

It would be further conclusive evidence of the GOP’s moral disintegration if Trump is their nominee in the 2024 presidential race, but no sighs of relief should be breathed if he isn’t, because their leading backup candidate is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is as demagogic and malevolent in his own way as Trump himself, most conspicuously at the moment in his Covid rhetoric and policies, which are infused with false and dangerous lines of propaganda and implemented with legislated wrongheaded strictures that are grossly counterproductive in combatting the virus. Republicans have a deep bench of morally bankrupt presidential aspirants. There’s no reason to hope that an honorable candidate will head their ticket in 2024.

Ukraine’s Fate

There’s been a lot of talk about how determined the Ukrainians are and how Russia will pay a terrible price if they invade that country. But the Russian military is immensely more powerful than Ukraine’s military, and they can advance on Ukraine from three sides. If they attack, I think it would be quickly seen that resistance would be suicidal. Putin could probably install a puppet government supported by a sizable segment of the Ukrainian population within a few days.The threat of U.S. and E.U. unprecedented economic sanctions will not likely be sufficient to deter Putin. I’m guessing that what happens will depend on the degree to which (1), E.U.countries can tolerate being deprived of Russian natural gas; (2) China, North Korea, and Iran are in league with Russia; and (3) Putin’s obsession with restoring Russia to its status when he was a KBG officer suppresses his pragmatic instincts.One thing certain: that making war would cause untold numbers of deaths and suffering of millions of people won’t enter into his calculations.

The Epistemological Crisis

New York Times opinion writer Farhad Manjoo has an interesting column this morning commenting on a new book by the philosopher David Chalmers about how we’re probably living in a computer simulation developed by an advanced civilization somewhere. I’ve heard about this before. It sounds like a whacky idea, and I doubt that I’ll ever be convinced that it’s not, but I’m interested in how a respected philosopher constructs such an argument, so I plan to read (or at least start reading) Chalmer’s book.

Manjoo seems drawn to this theory and raises a good point about virtual reality and how internet groups can become immersed in alternate realities that become very real to them, which is to a large extent why we’re experiencing an EPISTEMOLOGICAL CRISIS, a situation where large groups of people believe in patently false ideas, and that addresses questions like, “How is is that so many nut-cakes stage a rally near the Lincoln Memorial to protest “tyrants” like Dr. Fauci who want everybody to get vaccinated. I plan to read more about what’s going on here, which seems to be at the core of the most pressing threat to American democracy and to world order.

Nihilism on the Loose

In his MSNBC news and commentary show last evening, Chris Hayes profiled the Anti-Vax rally in Washington this past weekend. The United States ranks with Russia as the least vaccinated major country because of such people — the disinformation spreaders who are responsible for the much higher incidence of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid than would be the case if our country were not so replete with malicious nut-cakes and cynical opportunists shrieking Wolf! when there is no wolf. The most vocal of this cadre of deranged misanthropes compare doctors who urge people to get vaccinated to the vile Nazi doctors who experimented on helpless people against their will. Anti-Vax is just one of the species of mass hysteria that has infected our country, spread by agents of nihilism propelled by greed and resentment instead of empathy and love.

Trump’s Vulnerability

There is, I’m guessing, about a one-in-three chance that Trump’s criminality and betrayal of his oath of office will be so brightly illuminated that fellow members of the pack of hyenas who haven’t dared challenge the presumed alpha will see that he is so blazingly discredited in the public mind that it will be safe to break from him and run against him for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. The Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is sufficiently consumed with that idea that he’s already snarling and baring his teeth. Other members of the pack, like Senator Ted Cruz and Texas governor Greg Abbott, and half a dozen or so others are equally eager to stop sniveling in Trump’s presence, nip sharply at his heels, and leap ahead of him and battle for the spoils. Only Trump’s most devoted followers, particularly ones who know that they may be in need of a presidential pardon, would be unhappy if he fails to win the nomination. There is a fair chance, if not a satisfying likelihood, that he will fall very far very fast.

Closing the Ring

This was the title of one of the volumes in Winston Churchill’s History of World War II. The “ring” refers, of course, to the allied forces closing in on Hitler. There are now so many law suits pending and investigations in process exposing new evidence and revelations implicating Trump in criminal wrongdoing that I get a sense that a ring is forming around him and might be beginning to close.

One is always reminded to be careful in comparing anyone to Hitler. Trump has never shown any inclination to order armies to invade
other countries or commit millions to gas chambers because of their ethnicity, but in his thug-attracting character and his blind disregard of the devastating consequences of his behavior in pursuit of his crazed self-serving ambition, he shares some notable psychopathological characteristics with the Führer. Justice will be done if the ring closes on him. 

The Apocalyptic Scenario People Aren’t Thinking About

Some catastrophes are visible in advance. There are increasing numbers of signs that they might happen. Steps are taken to try to avoid them. Others come as a total surprise. No one was thinking about the possibility of that particular catastrophe happening and suddenly it does, and it is utterly devastating, and the survivors see that there was a chance that it would happen and everyone should have been thinking about how to reduce the risk. That’s why I’m a supporter of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. I get emails from them from time to time, reminding me of the apocalyptic-level peril we’re in. The email I got yesterday quoted an expert and former national security advisor who warns that it’s not enough for leaders to say “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought . . . Without concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States could end up in a nuclear war it says must not be fought.”

I fear that the Biden Administration is so beleaguered, so preoccupied in trying to address so many problems on so many fronts, that it is failing to address this very grave concern.

Good News and Bad News

The bad news is that Biden’s Build Back Better initiatives have been set back to square 1. Republican obstructionism (with a little help from certain Democrats) prevailed. Even worse, because potentially far more consequential, Republicans (with decisive help from Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema, whom I’ve referred to as “enigmatic” and “obdurate,” and have quite a stock of unflattering adjectives would be equally apt in referring to them) successfully blocked passage of voting rights and electoral process integrity bills that would have greatly lessened the likelihood that the United States will fall under authoritarian rule.

The good news is that Trump and his cohorts have been thrown on the defensive in Federal courts, in the House Select Committee investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, and in various state judicial and investigative proceedings. There’s an increasing chance that he won’t get away with as much as quite recently it looked as if he would.

A Bright Spot in the News

We can take some small comfort in the revelation yesterday that, although the majority of justices on the Supreme Court are partisan hacks, with the apparent exception of Justice Thomas, who registered the sole dissent, there are limits to the extent they will allow Trump largesse in his relentless effort to establish himself above the law. The Court yesterday rejected his baseless attempt to prevent release from the National Archives to the Congressional Select Committee of records that pertain to Trump’s involvement in the January 6th Insurrection. Only by bringing to light and enlightening the public as to the full scale of the criminal purposes of Trump and his allies is there likely to be a sufficient change in understanding and attitude of enough voters for our democracy to be saved.

So Much Depends on Garland

So much depended on enigmatic Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema. Their votes were crucial to modifying the filibuster rule so that voting rights and election integrity protection bills could be enacted to contravene laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures designed to tilt election results in favor of Republican loyalist candidates regardless of the will of a majority of voters. Manchin and Sinema whiffed, each making clear that they preferred to serve their perceived self-interests rather than save American democracy from likely extinction.

Now, so much depends on Attorney General Garland. He needs to follow through on his promise to prosecute perpetrators of grave federal crimes “at any level.” Our democracy might still be saved if the most gross prominent Republican malefactors, including, indeed, in particular, Donald Trump, are unflinchingly investigated and prosecuted. To shy away from that duty, to be fearful of the divisiveness and ugly responses that enforcing the law would generate, would be a great gift to Trump and his associates and a great disservice to our country.

Putin’s Goals and Republicans’s Goals

In a trenchant Op-Ed that appeared in yesterday’s online Washington Post, retired general, Rhodes Scholar, and former NATO commander Wesley Clark sets forth sane and sensible steps the U.S. should take to deter Putin in his agenda for restoring Russia to its position prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Conquering or installing a puppet government in Ukraine is Putin’s immediate goal.

The Republican Party, with the help of two obdurate Democratic senators, has gained the power to block President Biden’s legislative initiatives, including voting rights and election integrity protection initiatives, and through their promotion or tolerance of damaging misinformation, their complicity with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, their opposition to investigation of the January 6th, 2021, insurrection and their refusal to censure or restrain the conspicuous militant nihilists in their ranks in Congress, and in having succeeded in installing a solid majority of like-minded justices on the Supreme Court, they have made substantial progress toward achieving their goal of making Biden fail and, coupled with their radically anti-democratic legislative initiatives in states they control, maximizing their chances of gaining control of Congress in the November elections and the presidency in January 2025. They have shown no concern that, in their anti-democratic methods of weakening Biden, they have significantly weakened the country, much, we can be sure, to Putin’s satisfaction

Thoughts Prompted by Turning on the Television Last Evening

I turned on the news last evening. The newscaster / commentator was interviewing a Canadian political scientist. I didn’t have the sound on, and didn’t need to because a banner headline summarized what the political scientist was saying: “America could soon be a dictatorship.” I switched the channel to a football game, not because I didn’t think what this fellow was saying was very possible, but because I could guess what he was saying -– I’ve been following the news that closely. By the time the football players were occupying the screen, running through my mind for about the 500th time this year (and the year is still young) were lines from Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Thankfully, many of the best don’t lack all conviction. There are a lot of well positioned people who are working energetically to keep our country from falling under authoritarian rule. The banner headline on that newscast might just as well have read; “America could soon show that it will not let itself become a dictatorship.”

The Road to Wrong

Robert Reich notes that “Maybe, just maybe, when the two wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom 40%, something is wrong.” By preventing voting rights and election integrity legislation to be enacted, Democrats Senators Simena and Manchin have given a huge boost to the massive effort by Republicans to exchange American democracy for longterm, one-party autocratic rule, ensuring that the wrong Reich cites is just the beginning.

America the Beleaguered

“The Republican Party is now the party of voter suppression and election subversion,” writes Jennifer Rubin in a recent Washington Post column. Republicans’s goal is to lock-in longterm minority control of all branches of government, and they’re well on their way to achieving that goal. Some Republicans are more vocal and virulent than others, but even those who speak in measured terms exhibit no interest in saving American democracy. “America is coming apart at the seams,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. No wonder Putin thinks this is a good time to conquer Ukraine.

The Call That Isn’t Going To Get Through

Senator Krysten Sinema made clear yesterday that, although she would vote for bills crafted to counter voter suppression and ensure the integrity of election processes, she would not vote to make an exception to the filibuster rule that would allow such such bills to become law. Her reason was that it would foster political division.

The Republicans are much more likely to achieve their aim of converting our form of government from a democracy to long term authoritarian one-party minority rule in the absence of legislation that Simena, apparently with the concordance of Senator Joe Manchin, has blocked.

As Jennifer Rubin noted in a column earlier in the day, “Republicans . . . almost certainly would dump the filibuster at the drop of a hat if it suited them. (as they did on confirming Supreme Court justices).”

Yet we wouldn’t want to risk fostering political division with a political party that is engaged in a concerted effort to end American democracy and reinstall as president a malevolent sociopath, would we? Simena believes that avoiding fostering political division is a weightier matter than preserving American democracy when you balance the scales.

This is a “Planet Earth to Senator Sinema” moment, but the call isn’t going to get through. Simena’s either extraordinarily obtuse, or deeply cynical, state of mind presages dark times ahead.

More on the Magnificent Webb Telescope

The fantastic but real Webb telescope is gradually decelerating as it approaches its station about a million miles from Earth. The complexity of this instrument and what’s involved in deploying it get relatively little attention in the media, over-saturated as it is from a seemingly endless succession of unprecedentedly disturbing events.

Reading about this stunning scientific project gives one a sense of what humans can do when they aren’t engaged in enterprises (like running Congress, for example), dangerously contaminated by pathologically self-obsessed nihilistic actors. Even if you’re not interested in astronomy or cosmology, you might find it worthwhile to check the NASA website, “Where is the Webb?”: https://jwst.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/whereIsWebb.html

Trump, Georgia, and Justice

Concerning the the investigation of a Georgia District Attorney of Trump’s efforts to intimidate the Georgia Secretary of State into
fraudulently “finding” enough votes to enable Trump to have “won” that state despite Biden having won a solid majority of Georgia votes cast in the 2020 presidential election, in one of her columns yesterday, Washington Post op-ed writer Jennifer Rubin noted that “it is rare for any criminal case to have this much direct evidence available.” She cautioned that to obtain a conviction, prosecutors would have to “prove his state of mind, knowing that he was seeking fraudulent, not legitimate, votes.”

This reminded me of the legal maxim Res ipsa loquitur, “the thing speaks for itself.” What a breath for fresh air it would be if, in this instance, justice prevailed.

Those Present and Those Absent

At the House of Representatives ceremony to honor the police officers who died as a result of the January 6, 2021 insurrection, Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her elderly father, former vice president Dick Cheney, were the only Republicans who showed up. All the others, taking the Republican Party banner and the detritus of their honor with them, clambered aboard an unseaworthy pirate ship commanded by a malevolent sociopath who never learned how to tell port from starboard, much less right from wrong.

Where We Are in the Stream of History, Simply Said

“There is no more left vs right. It’s now democracy vs authoritarianism. . . If Democrats fail to protect the
right to vote, we will fall to fascism. We’re already on our way.” Robert Reich.

The Most Disingenuous Assertion of the Day

News Item: “The Washington Post revealed that “at least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s false claims are running for statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections.”

The headline yesterday of a column by right-wing pundit Hugh Hewitt in this same newspaper read: “Go ahead Democrats: Revise the filibuster and reap the whirlwind again.” This takes the prize as the most disingenuous assertion of the day, and probably of the year so far, because embedded in it is the risible assumption that the morally disintegrated Republican Party won’t unleash the whirlwind anyway if they take control of the senate. In fact, in supporting Trump’s Big Lie that the presidential election was stolen and in aggressively working to bring the sociopathic former president’s authoritarian aspirations to fruition, Republicans are already nothing but all whirlwind all the time.

It’s a good bet that this columnist’s aim was to give maverick Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema an excuse to oppose carving out an exception to the filibuster rule even though doing so is a necessary condition of saving American democracy from extinction.

The Magnificent Webb Telescope

If you’d like a some relief from the endless succession of foreboding and disturbing news stories and commentary (e.g. the chances of American democracy surviving seem to be ebbing every day), read about the magnificent Webb telescope, which was launched Christmas Day and is now about three-quarters of its way en route to its station about a million miles from Earth. The telescope’s sun shield and secondary mirror and port primary mirror have been successfully deployed in space. I’ve read that this fantastic instrument will fail and become worthless if any one of something like 350 things go wrong. So far about 175 things haven’t! Still ahead: deployment of mirror segments, telescope cooling, telescope alignment, and instrument calibration. First images and spectra are expected in about six months. We’ll learn a lot more about the universe if and after the Webb becomes fully operational.

This Pivotal Moment

In his remarks marking the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, Biden rightly assailed the vile conduct of “the former president”
and vividly described the peril our country is in. A solid majority of Americans would prefer to save our democracy than lose it. Unless a solid majority of Americans understand that this is the overriding issue in the upcoming elections, democracy will not likely survive. Biden seems to understand that he must be the principal messenger of this stark fact.

Garland’s Intentions

In his speech yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to assure the public that the Department of Justice investigation of the January 6, 2021 insurrection would be thorough and would examine whether there were criminal violations of the law at all levels. He was unclear as to whether that would be the case with respect to the concerted attempt to overturn the legitimate election of Biden as president, which is an even more important issue, since it goes to the heart of our Constitutional form of government. Garland must pursue both issues with equal vigor and resolve if American democracy is to have a chance of surviving past the upcoming elections.

The Critical Questions of the Day

1. Does Attorney General Merrick Garland, in addition to being superbly qualified and having unquestionable integrity, have the right stuff, the right stuff being the courage and wisdom to conduct a vigorous, thoroughgoing, uncompromising criminal investigation of the instigation of the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the concerted attempt to overturn the legitimate election of Biden as president?

2. Do Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, have sufficiently good moral character to endorse an exception to the filibuster rule so that legislation can be enacted that is critical to saving American democracy from ending within the next few years?

The answers to these questions will provide the answer to Lincoln’s question as to whether “we will nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope on earth.”

Note from Surreal Land

That the omicron variant is causing such an agonizingly high number of cases and hospitalizations is largely due to malevolent right-wing disinformation campaigns discouraging people from getting vaccinated. Right-wing Republican politicians and media stars delight in demagoguing the issue by championing freedom to refuse to be vaccinated. This nihilistic form of madness has been carried to such lengths that five states (all unsurprisingly dominated by Trumpian types and their supporters) are giving people unemployment compensation if they lose their job because they (presumably heroically) refused to be vaccinated.

If. . .

Something like 73% of Republicans (I’d guess about 30% of the entire electorate) believe or falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that Biden is not the legitimate president. They therefore feel, or falsely claim to be, justified in doing whatever they can to replace Democratic control of Congress and the presidency with Republican control, including instituting blatantly anti-democratic measures such as grossly partisan gerrymandering, voting suppression, concerted intimidation of election officials, and even, in the case of the presidential election, empowering Republican-controlled state legislatures to substitute Republican slates of electors for ones responsive to the will of the majority of voters. This means that about thirty percent of the electorate is willing to trash democratic norms based on false beliefs or false cynical claims in order to secure longterm entrenched Republican rule.

Many analysts have observed that democracy itself is on the ballot in 2022 and 2024 elections. It’s more than “on the ballot.” It eclipses all other issues in significance. If all voters understood that Democrats are committed to preserving democracy, and Republicans to ending it, Democrats would easily prevail in the upcoming elections.

On the Significance of the Word “Brave” in Our Present Circumstances

A Washington Post article the other day referred to “a few brave Republicans speaking out against the ‘big lie’ of a stolen election.” What was brave about their speaking out? What would be the consequences of being truthful, honest, and responsible? If they were legislators, they might receive a primary challenge from a rabid Trumpian. Is that such a risk that it requires bravery to take it? Whether they were legislators or not, by speaking out, they might receive intimidating threats from the thuggish paramilitary contingent of MAGA cultists, who are not just tolerated, but encouraged, by the well-tailored leaders of the Republican Party. One-third of Americans say that it may be necessary to use violence to attack the government. Such folks, most of them well-armed, describe themselves as champions of freedom even as they try to limit that that hallowed right to those brave enough to contest their vicious and nihilistic agenda.

A Cheerful Thought to Begin the New Year

I resolved to think of a cheerful thought to begin the new year. One could make a heartening list of good developments, inspiring examples, and favorable portents for 2022, though I’m not sure their aggregate mass would surpass that of the potential apocalypses hovering barely over the horizon. The most cheerful thought that comes to me at the moment is that you can handle all manner of situations much better if you have the right state of mind. I know that because, even though my basic situation, being 90 years-old, isn’t as favorable as it was decades ago, I’m feeling anxiety-free, more self-confident, and more relaxed than I did decades ago because my state of mind improved. I think most people would be happier and more clear-headed if they could develop a better state of mind. I don’t presume to advise anyone on how to bring that about. I describe how it happened to me in “The View from Ninety,” accessible on this website.

Year-End Wrap Up

Here we are again, wrapping up the year and looking ahead to the new one. Watching a couple of MSNBC news shows last evening was like playing a game called Choose Your Own Apocalypse; for example, there’s the multi-pronged, thug-assisted, truth-assaulting attempt by Republicans to convert American democracy into longterm, one-party, authoritarian rule that, right now, looks more likely to succeed than not; there’s the “doomsday glacier” in Antarctica, likely to be undercut by warm water and destined to significantly raise sea level, which you can read about in conjunction with news of a devastating wildfire in northern Colorado, in late December, next to the report of a 67 F. temperature reading in Alaska that topped the previous record by 20 degrees; then there’s Putin, acting like Stalin, massing troops in preparation for conquering Ukraine, threatening to reprise The Cold War and risking a hot one; then there’s the seemingly endless pandemic (who knows what mutant is next?). The list of looming apocalypses to choose from is longer than I want to devote time to thinking about. Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, and one of my resolutions is to be more cheerful.

2022

What a year ahead. So many problems, the biggest of which is that 71% of Republicans, close to 35% of the population, have been duped into believing that Biden somehow stole the election, and that he is not the legitimate president. That there is zero evidence that this is the case means nothing to these folks. A similar percentage believe most of the myths spun out by disseminators of right-wing propaganda, including about the cause of the January 6th insurrection and the value of Covid vaccines. The duped and deluded and those who duped and deluded them are the biggest problem this country faces in 2022. More than 50,000,000 Americans have been infected with the Covid virus. More than twice that number are infected with false beliefs virus. It’s a phenomenon that has weakened our country and imperils its continuance as the world’s leading democracy.

Stoicism

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read or skimmed a couple of books and several articles promoting stoicism as the best way to live. I won’t attempt to analyze the pros and cons of stoicism here, but I’ll say that I believe something is missing from it. It’s colorless. It lacks verve. It’s unimaginative. Maybe I’m a romantic.

New Year Resolutions for America

In a Washington Post column this morning, Jennifer Rubin proposes six New Year’s resolutions for America. All make sense. Most pertain to elected officials and media people. One pertains to everybody: We need to be good citizens. Following and keeping all six is essential if American democracy is to survive. Most salient, in my opinion, relates to Attorney General Merrick Garland. The Justice Department must conduct a thorough criminal investigation of the incitement of the January 6th insurrection and obstruction of Congress in its Constitutional role of ensuring the peaceful transition of power to the duly elected president. Failing to do so will amount to a license to try again.

What We’ll Likely Know a Year from Now

It’s stunning to contemplate: Right now, it looks premature even to guess, but a year from now we’ll know whether it’s likely that American democracy will be saved or whether it’s likely that it’s in an irreversible down spiral into long term, one-party authoritarian rule.

Omicron: Not To Be Taken Lightly

A cautionary op-ed this morning on the front page of the online Washington Post makes a compelling argument that omicron could have a much worse effect on humanity than most people seem to think. The author, Dr. William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, says that the variant is so new that we don’t yet know what its long-term effects may be. Because of its extreme ease of transmissibility, it’s producing record numbers of cases. Likelihood of new mutations that could be more deadly or more resistant to vaccines is correlated with the numbers of cases. We shouldn’t go into a daze induced by the hope that omicron will quickly pass. It’s “past time,” Dr. Hanage says, for the world to deliver billions more vaccine does throughout the world, to make rapid tests freely available, and to work in other ways he talks about to minimize the virus’s toll.

Merry Christmas to Everyone!

I was glad to see that the world got a little present this morning with the successful launch of the James Webb telescope, which, if it reaches its planned location about a million miles from Earth and becomes fully operational, thereafter accompanying Earth at that distance as we continue our revolutions around the sun, will expand our explorations of the universe and help us better understand it and our place in it far more than could be accomplished by sending astronauts on space missions, and, I believe, in some small way, increase our sense of commonality and relationship to the cosmos.

The Likely Person of the Year for 2022

If, twelve months ahead of time, I had to guess who my choice for person of the year will be for 2022, I’d guess it that it will be Attorney General Merrick Garland. That’s because during 2022 he will have either (i) effectively demonstrated that the rule of law and the principle that no person is above the law are still intact by having launched a full-scale Justice Department criminal investigation of Donald Trump and high-level characters that aided him in inciting the January 6th insurrection and plotting to overturn the legitimate election of Joe Biden as president in 2020, or (ii) by failing to do so, will have established a place in history for himself as a good man with superb credentials who failed to summon up the courage and lacked the wisdom to come to the aid of his country when duty demanded it.

The Child Tax Credit

The $300 per month child tax credit which reduced child poverty by almost 50% is set to expire because Democratic senator Joe Manchin and all fifty Republican senators say it’s mostly giving money to people who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. Challenged to say why he doesn’t want to sharply reduce child poverty at a cost well within the nation’s capability, Manchin cited a talk he had with a woman who said her daughter was a crackhead, implying that she would spend the child tax credit on drugs. I’m sure some parents spend money they receive stupidly or self-indulgently, resulting in no benefit to the child. In what percent of families is that the case? Maybe 2%, maybe 10%? Whatever it is, you can bet –– I believe it’s been documented ––that for the overwhelming percentage of eligible families, the child tax credit makes a substantial difference in the physical and mental health of the children involved. Sure, some of this subsidy is wasted. There are sensible ways of addressing that problem. Throwing millions of children that have been lifted out of poverty, back into it, in great numbers of cases blighting their lives, isn’t one of them.

Another Standout Journalist Worthy of Praise

Further to my nomination of Jennifer Rubin as the Journalist and Opinion Writer of the Year, I should say that someone who is no less a credit to the profession and ranks with Rubin in quality of analysis, exemplary character, and service to the truth, is MSNBC news and opinion host Chris Hayes. In his weeknights show at 8:00 p.m. E.S.T., he is consistently on target. Last night he began documenting the Republicans’s “festival of violence,” exhibiting how Fox News propagandists and extreme right-wing politicians have been parading and glorifying as a hero the disturbed youth, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who journeyed from his home in Illinois with his military style assault weapon and shot three people but was acquitted of all charges on the ground of self-defense. The entire episode and the appropriation of this young man for their exultation of violence is disgusting beyond words. Chris Hayes shined a bright light on it.

Journalist and Opinion Writer of the Year:

If I were nominating someone for this, it would be Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin. What clinched it for me was her marvelous holiday list of gift wishes for various people, entities, and groups, which is witty and bespeaks her good-heartedness and practical wisdom. My gift wish would include a copy of her columns next year landing each day on every politician’s desk.

Here’s a sampling of gifts Rubin would like to bestow. The entire list is much longer and much worth reading, and her daily columns are too.

Facebook: A new business model that does not monetize anger, polarization and disinformation.

The District of Columbia: Statehood.

Doctors and nurses: Patients who are vaccinated.

The Senate: A reformed filibuster that will make the body functional.

Person of the Year

Time Magazine has shown itself to be exceptionally clunk-headed by naming Elon Musk as its “Person of the Year.”

I don’t know who, if anyone, should be Person of the Year, but one person who would have been a far better choice for Time to have made is the Republican Representative from Wyoming, Liz Cheney. I would cite her for exceptional service to our country in acting like a normal Republican, in particular in serving and playing a leading role as member of the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection.

Why would Cheney be a candidate for Person of the Year just for acting as a normal Republican? The answer is that, with a handful of exceptions, no other Republican member of Congress is normal. They are all abnormal, abysmally so, in abjectly tolerating or enthusiastically supporting the authoritarian-power-seeking sociopathic former president.

Omicron: The Need to Sharply Step Up the Rate of Booster Shots

The rate of discovery of new Covid cases with the omicron variant, where it is present, which by now is just about everywhere, appear to be doubling every two or three days. You know how graphs look with that kind of exponential growth. Although, as one always hears, “there’s still a lot to be learned,” it seems well established that beyond six months after vaccination with two shots a few weeks apart, Pfizer and Moderna offer scant protection from omicron, but that a third (booster) shot of either of these brands offers excellent protection, especially against severe illness. It’s not known how long this booster protection lasts, but presumably for at least several months before gradually losing efficacy. One would think that everyone who got the recommended two-shot dose many months earlier in the year would be running, and not walking, to get their booster shot. (I got mine without having to wait in line on October 1st.) Yet I just read that 70% of people who have had two shots have not gotten their booster shot. These people aren’t anti-vaxers: Most of them got two shots many months ago. It’s puzzling and disturbing that the rate of booster shots is so sluggish. The result will likely be a considerably faster rise than need be in the rate of new omicron variant cases in the coming weeks.

he 2024 Presidential Election and the Grave Threat that Attends It.

I’ve come across a lot of unsettling headlines in recent years, none more so than for an opinion piece by three retired generals that can be found on today’s online Washington Post: “The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection.”

The authors hypothesize this plausible scenario: The outcome of the presidential election in 2024 is contested; an insurrection and armed confrontations ensue; conflicting claims are made as to who is in rightful command of our armed forces; some military units align themselves with one claimant and others with the other claimant.

The present administration, Congress, and the military leadership must act effectively to ensure that neither this scenario nor anything like it can occur. The authors lay out steps that need to be taken. Their warning and their advice should be treated as a matter of highest importance and priority.

The Constitution and the Supreme Court

There’s an old saying: “The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.” An authoritative column yesterday by New York Times Supreme Court analyst Linda Greenhouse yesterday discusses the ways in which the present Court, stacked by Republicans with a super majority of right-wing extremists, is in effect saying that the Constitution means what suits the personal preferences of the majority of justices. The words of the Constitution remain unchanged, but their meaning, as lower courts must take them to be in the future, is changing, among other ways, in curtailing women’s reproductive freedom, forcing states to fund religious education, and reprehensibly limiting gun safety regulation.

American Democracy, Joe Biden and Joe Manchin

Voting rights and electoral processes protection legislation must be enacted if American democracy is to be saved.This is the pre-eminent issue of our time. Apparently Democratic senator Joe Manchin’s reluctance to carving out an exception to the filibuster is standing in the way. What is going on in conversations between Biden and Manchin? From Manchin’s behavior, one would think that he doesn’t care what happens to American Democracy. Has Biden asked him if that’s the case? Can’t Manchin’s yearning for power, money, and prestige be met some other way? For example, can’t other Democrats accede to his demands with respect to the Build Back Better legislation and let him claim that he saved America’s solvency by standing firm? It’s worth sacrificing most of Build Back Better, if that’s what it takes to save American democracy.

On Being Ninety

If you’ve had enough luck so far, since with a little more of it you’ll reach ninety in good health, you’ll be glad to know that, despite attenuated life expectancy and diminished mobility, this can be a much better situation than I imagined when I was young. By this age, little is expected of you, and only a smattering of your relatives and friends your age are still around and none from older generations. You may feel, as I do, as if you died some time ago but were able to return with barely a care for yourself in the world and check out the scene, become aware of some important things that hadn’t previously entered your consciousness, and try to accomplish something significant you had thought about but neglected to attend to when you were alive earlier.

Where is the January 6th Insurrection Investigation by the House Select Committee charged with that task heading?

In one of her columns in yesterday’s online Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin lays out what’s already been uncovered and concludes: “The committee appears well on the way to detailing indisputable evidence of Trump’s role in attempting to override the Constitution.”

It would be the most satisfying breath of fresh air this country has ever experienced if justice prevails.

The Purification of Fox News

Chris Wallace, a popular host and interviewer known for his journalist integrity, is leaving Fox News to take a position at CNN, thereby removing the only major obstacle to Fox News’s fulfilling its mission as an uncompromising disseminator of extreme right-wing truth-free propaganda.

Stiffening Our Resolve

Glancing at the online Washington Post front page last evening, confirmed my feeling that 2022 is going to be an exceptionally challenging year. We need to get into a mental state where we can keep balanced, stiffen our resolve, work for the good, and not succumb to despair. First, dominating the news, were the tornados that barreled through central states. They were more devastating than any I can recall, and December isn’t in the tornado season. Elsewhere on the front page I saw that the 14-day change in new Covid cases is up 40% and deaths up 31% (They were trending down this morning, but it was reported that the omicron variant is spreading fast). Next I turned to see what the opinion writers have to say and scanned the headings of featured columns. The top one read, “Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection. It was vigilantism. And more is coming.” That doesn’t sound good. The next was headed, “Jan. 6 crossed a line. We need to say so before it’s too late for democracy.” Right, but how does saying so get us anywhere? What was next? “I monitor Trump’s die-hard base. They’re still plotting out in the open.” Put these together and they’re more than alarming. Maybe the next column is more encouraging. Afraid not: it’s headlined: “18 steps to a democratic breakdown.” That caused me to be glad that we have an independent judiciary –– surely the courts will save us. That doesn’t seem likely either: The headline for the last column, the editorial, reads: “The nation needed a strong defense of constitutional rights. The Supreme Court did this instead.”

What can you say after reading this stuff? “Have a nice day.”?

Ukraine

It’s nice but quaint to think that the succession of eras of the human species had ended when from time to time a country tried to conquer another and subjugate it or incorporate all or part of it as a province. Putin, who rules Russia, is threatening to invade Ukraine and incorporate it into Russia as was the case in the time of the Soviet Union, and it looks like he’s going to do it. Ukraine is about as capable of defending itself against Putin as Poland was of defending itself against Hitler in 1939. A war between the two would probably last a day or two, whereupon Ukraine would surrender for humanitarian reasons. Putin knows that the United States and other NATO countries will let this happen rather then engage in a war with Russia. Biden has warned Putin that there would be serious consequences for such blatant aggression. Meanwhile western European countries want Russian natural gas to stay warm in winter. They are reluctant to jeopardize getting it. I hope, but am doubtful, that Biden can assemble enough formidable economic consequences and have them ready to wield to deter an invasion.

The Most Despicable Person of the Year

So much competition! Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy has made an excellent case for himself, as have Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Ron Johnson, Tom Cotton, among other high ranking Republican politicians, including several contemptible governors. The list of execrable politicians and media personnel has never been longer nor has it ever included more sociopaths who would coast to victory under normal circumstances. And while I’m on that subject, let me give a special shout at Rupert Murdoch, who has never been adequately depreciated.

Note to wanabees Republican Representatives Majorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert: You’re both too obviously whacko to be as serious threats to American democracy as the front runners. You’re not in a class, for example, with mob henchmen Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, much less the incomparably repulsive Steve Bannon. Among media stars, Tucker Carlson’s stunningly ignoble performances have exceeded those even of Sean Hennessy, and both are certainly deserving of unparalleled excoriation.

How could I have not already mentioned the stupendously horrible Florida member of the House of Representatives, Matt Gaetz? Let me not be even more remiss in failing to acknowledge that standout among schmucks, Mark Meadows. And I want to give special condemnation to Arizona Republican Representative Paul Gosar, who produced and distributed an animation depicting himself murdering his progressive Democratic colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an imaginative and bold attempt to win the title. There are many more miscreants than I have space to list here, all worthy of dishonorable mention, but like you, Mr. Gosar, they are all also-rans. Once again, as happens year after year, hands down, Donald J Trump is the most despicable person of the year.

A Hopeful Note Concerning the 2022 Elections

Jennifer Rubin sounded a hopeful note about the 2020 elections in one of her online Washington Post columns yesterday, pointing out that though it won’t be easy for Democrats to retain their tenuous grip on Congress in next year’s elections, a favorable factor for them is that because radical, obstructionist, right-wing conspiracy theory-promoting, authoritarian-minded Trump supporters and emulators dominate the Republican Party, many of their candidates will be the kind of extremist figure that most voters recoil from. That’s a nice thought, though it only qualifies as a hopeful note.

America’s Civil War between Truth Tellers and Liars

Imagine a scene where a town has plenty of cops, but there’s almost as many robbers, and all the robbers are wearing police uniforms and are just as well armed as the cops. Our country is in similar circumstances. We are presently engaged in a civil war between truths (to give a few examples, though a full list would be much longer: that the last presidential election was fairly won; that the attempted coup on January 6th should be fully investigated and the those participating in it and those involved in instigating it should be criminally prosecuted no matter how lofty a position they hold or held at that time; that it’s important for the common good for everyone to be vaccinated against Covid; and that it’s fundamental to our democracy that obstructions should be removed that make it harder for people to exercise their right to vote) and lies (denying these and other truths and asserting that the opposite is true). In this civil war, speaking with passionate intensity, the liars call themselves truth tellers and call the truth tellers liars. It’s the greatest tragedy this country has endured since the Civil War itself.

Can American Democracy Be Saved?

Later this week, President Biden is convening a virtual meeting in which a great many countries, including ones with conspicuously shaky democratic institutions, are to confer about how to strengthen democracy and repel authoritarian movements. Is Biden aware that American democracy itself is on the ropes? Last evening, on her MSNBC news show, Rachel Maddow read aloud for viewers lengthy excerpts from a chilling just published article in the Atlantic about the Republican Party’s multi-pronged effort to engineer a “legal” coup and establish long term one-party control over the federal government and how plausible it is that they will succeed. Democrats, particularly Biden himself, must get across to all Americans of good will the peril we’re in, its cause, and what must be done about it.

Red States, Blue States, and Vaccinations

Red States and counties –– ones in which Republicans tend to win elections –– have significantly lower percentages of residents who have been vaccinated and significantly higher rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid than Blue states (ones where Democrats tend to win elections). This distinct correlation is caused by the tendency among Republicans and their media allies to denigrate the efficacy of vaccines and undermine efforts by the Biden administration to fight the virus. The desire of these people to undercut the Biden administration is stronger than any concern they have for the public good or even for members of their own constituency. Their dominant characteristic is destructiveness to the point of nihilism.

Serial Killers

It’s striking how in certain instances a person can act maliciously, causing the deaths of others, yet not be subject to criminal prosecution. That’s the case with people who have a large audience and, although they know otherwise, assert that vaccines are harmful and best avoided and that vaccine requirements are medically inadvisable or tyrannical, or both. There are a lot of people in this category, including the woman on Fox News who compared the president’s chief health advisor to a Nazi war criminal because he wants people to get vaccinated. Prominent Republican politicians and right-wing media personalities have deterred millions of people from getting vaccinated against the Covid. Many of these people have contracted the virus who would not have had they been vaccinated, and among these, many have endured serious illness, and among these, many have died. The malefactors responsible for these deaths may not be prosecutable under federal or state criminal law, but they are serial killers just the same.

The West at Bay

Headline: “Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, U.S. intelligence warns.”
A book by the British economist Barbara Ward, published in 1949, the year in which the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear weapons test and Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China, was titled The West at Bay. I’ve never read the book, but the title and the concept have long haunted me. To say the least, an update with the same title, would be apt. We’re in grim circumstances, both because of the character and resources of our adversaries and because the West is at bay from within itself. The European Union, post-Brexit, is besieged by fractious forces, and the United States is semi-paralyzed by multiple afflictions, at the heart of which is the moral disintegration of the Republican Party, evidenced most spectacularly by the stance of the vast majority of Republicans, ranging from abject tolerance of, to enthusiastic allegiance to, the sociopathic former president.

Omicron

Early analysis of new data from South Africa reported on this morning suggests that the Omicron variant is three times more transmissible than the Delta, and that previous infection with other variants confers less immunity against Omicron. My nonauthoritative impression from what I’ve read suggests that Omicron is also more evasive of vaccines than previous variants, but that current vaccines are still substantially effective in preventing severe illness and death.

The world in a much better position to deal with this development than it was a year ago, but the need for collective, rational, aggressive action has never been greater. If we weren’t also enduring a plague of anti-vaccination hysteria, conspiracy theorizing, mask mandate opposition, and malicious misinformation spreading, we could feel positive about humanity’s chances of ending the pandemic in 2022.

Requiem for Roe v. Wade

The six Supreme Court justices who will almost certainly decide to either overrule Roe v. Wade or strip it of any practical meaning are all hard-nosed doctrinaire Catholics of a mind to think that by decreeing that a woman’s choice to have an abortion is not a Constitutional right, they are showing themselves to be more Christian, and therefore more virtuous, than those with contrary opinions. In this righteous act of self-sanctification they will ignore —they cannot bear to consider –– the dismay, cruelty, and hardship that will ensue from their decision. They will ignore that the incidence of abortions has radically declined since Roe v. Wade was decided. They will ignore that the Constitution not only guarantees freedom of religion, it guarantees freedom from religion. They will ignore that, in states where abortions will be illegal, women who are well off will be able to get an abortion by traveling to a state where it is allowed, but most poor women will not. It is the poor who will suffer. Our country will suffer. When the Court issues its decision, the Christian spirit will not be found in the majority opinion. It will be found in the dissent, which I hope will be written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Christian Catholic on the Court.

Running Out the Clock

If the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection could get all the testimony and documents it’s seeking, the odds are that it would assemble more than enough evidence of criminal wrongdoing to result in prosecution and probable conviction of Trump and some of his prominent collaborators. These people know that this course of events will probably play out unless they can delay proceedings sufficiently so that no irreversible harm will happen to Trump or any of his loyalists before, as is more likely than not, Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives a year from now. American democracy’s survival may depend on whether the wheels of justice turn fast enough to keep its enemies from running out the clock.

What Must Be Prioritized Above All Else

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin reported yesterday on a conversation she had with former Soviet dissident and world chess champion Garry Kasparov. He leads The Renew Democracy Initiative, which comprises dissidents from 28 countries who are working to defend and preserve American democracy. Kasparov has lived through what he’s talking about. He says that “the very existence of well-functioning liberal democracies threatens dictators’ legitimacy.” That’s why autocrats throughout the word will do everything to create chaos and divide our country. In a time of crisis, like the present one, those who wish to preserve democracy must prioritize working to do so above all else. That’s why it’s so absurd for people like Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema to prioritize preserving the filibuster rule over preserving and restoring voting rights and ensuing the integrity of electoral processes. It’s behavior akin to refusing to break the glass facing of a case to take out a fire extinguisher with which you can keep a building from burning down.

The Month Ahead

It will be momentous. There’s the almost certain warping of basic Constitutional principles by the extremist right-wing-dominated Supreme Court, the funding the government issue to grapple with and the raising the debt ceiling issue, the new omicron variant challenge, the dealing with inflation without precipitating a recession problem, parrying Russian and Chinese expansionism, trying to pass meaningful “soft” infrastructure and climate change-slowing legislation, trying to get recalcitrant Democratic senators to agree to amend the filibuster so that voting rights protection and electoral process reform legislation can be enacted in time to save the country from becoming an authoritarian state, and I don’t think this list is complete.

On Being Awed

Last evening, I read a New York Times “guest essay” that resonated with my own thoughts. It was titled “Why Space Tourists Won’t Find the Awe They Seek.” The author, Henry Wismayer, a travel writer based in London, made a persuasive case. Super rich tourists pay upwards of $450,000 to rocket to what’s called the edge of space (about 1 /5,000th of the way to the moon, by the way) and are served champagne upon return to celebrate their experience. Wismayer explains that “under such contrived conditions, awe will always be a chimera.” To seek awe is to undercut finding it.

After reading this essay, I recalled some instances in which I’ve experienced awe. The first time cost 25 cents at most rather than $450,000. It occurred when our family spent a week’s vacation in Miami Beach in 1941 when I was ten years-old. There was virtually no light pollution in the park we strolled through one evening, and we came upon a man with a telescope on a tripod who offered to let anyone look through it for a small fee. Pop treated, and for the first time I saw Jupiter as a disc, and lined up in a row on either side of it three or four of its moons. I doubt if Galileo was more thrilled than I when he had the same experience. I had an ice-cream cone afterwards, but it wasn’t to celebrate being awed.

Gerrymandering Run Amok and What It Means

New York Times headline: “Maps Give G.O.P. a Stranglehold in Key States.” The maps referred to are of Congressional districts and state legislative districts drawn so as to confer disproportionate representation to the party controlling the state government. The effect of this profoundly anti-democratic trend is to favor Republican candidates at both state and federal levels. The right-wing- controlled Supreme Court has washed its hands of the matter. Enactment of Federal legislation to protect voting rights and ensure the integrity of electoral processes is all that stands in the way of (at best) gross degradation of American democracy in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Two obtuse and shamelessly opportunistic Democratic senators stand in the way of enactment of Democratic-sponsered Federal legislation to protect voting rights and ensure the integrity of electoral processes.

Climate Change –– The View from Colorado

I remember a decade or two ago, a climate-change-scoffing Congressman brought a snowball into the House chamber to back up his claim that climate change was a hoax. This was risible, and even more it was idiotic. Trends are another thing. Our house is in southwestern Colorado, elevation 6,600’. When we moved here about fifteen years ago, we were told that that the first snow on the ground should be expected by the end of October. I just checked the weather forecast for the coming days, and it’s evident that, for the first time, we won’t have snow on the ground by the end of November. Sunny and mild is the prediction for each of the next five days, with a high of sixty on December 1st. Even a trend can be an anomaly. This one is clearly not.

Thanks and Hope

Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and no less so to those who don’t celebrate it! Jennifer Rubin had a lovely and affecting column in the online Washington Post yesterday titled “Giving Thanks for Democracy.” Troublesome as our times are, many people have worked for the good, and much has been accomplished. A bright note yesterday was the murder conviction by a jury in Georgia of three men who gunned down a black man who was running away from them. After Thanksgiving comes the Season of Hope. Thankfully there’s a basis for it.

No Ordinary Moment in History

The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin titled her book about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during the World War II “No Ordinary Time.” It sure wasn’t. There’s nothing as dramatic as many of the events of Word War II occurring at present, so it’s tempting to think we are living in ordinary times, even though we are living at a singularly momentous time: The fate of the nation is at stake. In a Washington Post column yesterday Jennifer Rubin reported that a group of 150 scholars have sent an extraordinary letter to members of Congress, in which they state: “This is no ordinary moment in the course of our democracy. It is a moment of great peril and risk.” The letter lays out with clarity and precision the consequences that will result if the senate doesn’t suspend the filibuster rule and pass voting rights protection and electoral process reform well before the 2022 elections. The likely alternative is one of unprecedented horror.

The Good Guys and the Bad Guys

The great classic Western movies usually featured the Good Guys, like the sheriff and those loyal to him in High Noon, and the Bad Guys –- the outlaws. In these movies the Bad Guys knew they were bad. They didn’t deny it. They just thought they could shoot their way out of it. In contemporary United States, the Bad Guys make a great show of pretending that they are the Good Guys, and there are a lot of Bad Guys –- politicians, media personalities, and their financial backers –– who have convinced a large segment of the public that they are the Good Guys and that it’s the guys generally regarded as good that are the bad ones. It’s easy for someone like me, who has seen a lot and learned a lot about American history, having lived through well over a third of it since 1776, and has a pretty good understanding of our society and culture, to tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys, and it’s agonizing to observe that there are so many Bad Guys and no less so that there are so many people who can’t tell the difference between Good Guys and Bad Guys or have been duped into getting it backward. If the existential struggle going on in the United States right now were happening in a classic Western movie, I could assure you that the Good Guys are going to win. I’m sorry it’s not.

A Challenge –– (adapted from a letter to the editor of my regional newspaper)

Regional newspapers play a vital role in keeping the public informed and offering a forum for a wide range of opinion. Their task has been been made more difficult in recent decades not only because of competition with TV cable networks and internet publishers, resulting in erosion of revenue from subscriptions and advertising, but also because the country has become so politically polarized that many of the most newsworthy stories, even though they are reported truthfully and comprehensively, may be enthusiastically welcomed by one constituency and denounced by another with such intensity that the newspaper risks alienating sizable blocks of readers and advertisers simply by fulfilling its journalistic responsibilities.

As a result, owners of newspapers may be tempted to avoid expressing highly controversial opinions and shy away from publishing freely and fearlessly, calling out truth and lies for what, in each case, they are, because they fear that doing so could impair their ability to operate profitably enough to stay in business. In meeting this difficult challenge, newspaper owners should keep in mind the Washington Post’s motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Newspapers must shine light brightly no matter what.

History and Chance

Headline: “{Democratic Senator Krysten} Sinema holds firm in support of the filibuster, imperiling late voting rights push.”

I’ve long been haunted by the limerick “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost. / For want of a shoe, a horse was lost. / For want of a horse, the battle was lost. / For want of a battle, the war was lost. Now I’m haunted by this speculative thought: For want of a senator’s vote to bypass the filibuster, federal voting rights and electoral process integrity protection legislation didn’t pass. For want of federal voting rights and electoral process integrity protection legislation, American democracy was lost

A World Where Everybody’s Shooting in Self-Defense

You may have read or heard about the 17-year-old fellow who went to a street protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, carrying an assault weapon and ended up shooting three people and killing two of them. He was tried for murder and lesser charges, and yesterday a jury acquitted him on all counts. This is what happens in our gun-besotted society. If you go to a protest, planning to protest either for X or against X, you’re exercising your right of free speech and assembly; you’re performing a civic duty too, expressing your views as a concerned citizen.

The trouble is that in these highly polarized intense times, given that high Republican public officials, including the former president, and well-dressed right-wing media personalities have persistently incited impressionable people to be violent, attending a protest can be dangerous. Violence can break out. It’s best to be prepared to defend yourself in case you’re attacked, and to be safe, it’s best to have a powerful automatic weapon (an assault rifle) because it will have a stronger deterrent effect and thereby minimize the risk of violence. To be extra safe, it’s best to display and brandish your weapon a little to show hostile protestors that you’re not to be trifled with. Doing that will surely minimize the risk of violence even more.

But suppose you are another person, and you are at the protest and see someone approaching you, brandishing an assault rifle. You can’t be sure, but he looks ready to shoot you. Best to shoot first in self-defense. It’s the law that you can shoot in self-defense, so why take a chance? Unfortunately, you don’t get a chance to think about it because that’s what the fellow with the assault weapon thinks you’re likely to do whether you are or not. Just thinking it could happen makes it so as far as he’s concerned. You feel threatened, so much so that he shoots you. Maybe, at least, he’s sorry. He may cry later about having shot you in self-defense. You don’t learn about that though, because you’re dead.

Tax Structure and Tax Collection Enforcement

News Item: “Over the next 10 years, the IRS is on track to collect 7 trillion less than is owed.” That’s apart from all the trillions that would be owed if it weren’t for all the the tax breaks and loopholes in the law that enable the rich and especially the super rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. A lot of people not only don’t want an equitable tax structure, they don’t want the IRS to be adequately funded to enforce the existing law, and they’re calling the shots.

Once Again, Republicans Reveal Themselves for What They Are

Yesterday, The House of Representatives, having far more than ample cause to do so (expulsion from Congress would have been a more appropriate sanction), voted to censure one of its members, Paul Gosar (R – Arizona). Gosar had used congressional resources to produce and release a cartoon video of him murdering Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D -New York). Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank reported that “In the video, the Gosar figure flies through the air and slashes the Ocasio-Cortez figure across the back of the neck. Blood sprays profusely from the neck wound.” That only two Republican members of Congress (about 1% of them) voted to censure Gosar reveals with crystal clarity the degree to which Republicans and the Republican Party have abandoned all sense of responsibility, decency, and fitness to hold public office. They are a shameful lot. Their perpetuation in positions of power constitutes a grave threat to our country.

Keeping in Touch with the Universe

Because of trees, other houses, and the slope of the land, it’s not easy to keep in touch with the universe from our house, but still possible. In the upstairs hallway there’s an octagonal window facing west through which, by the time it got dark last evening, Venus shone with dazzling luminosity. This morning, it was still dark when I got up, and Venus had been replaced by Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Venus, right now, is about fifty million miles away. Sirius is about fifty million million miles away. I used to live in a house where I could look up from the deck and see the Andromeda galaxy, which is about fifteen million, million, million miles away. Astronomers think of it as local.

How I Was Astonished by the Transformation of Republicans and the Republican Party

Growing up, and after growing up, I was so indoctrinated in American exceptionalism, in thinking how proud most Americans must be in our country, our Constitutional form of government, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, making the world safe for Democracy, how, through American goodness, former fascist dictatorships Germany, Japan, and Italy became transformed into shining democracies, winning the cold war, breaking down the Berlin wall, the Civil Rights movement –– all that and a lot of other good stuff –– that it never occurred to me that the Republican Party, affectionally known as the GOP (the Grand Old Party), could become dominated by people intent on subjugating, or acceding to the subjugation of, our country to fascistic, mendacious, plutocratic, white supremacist-tolerating, brutish, authoritarian, unAmerican one party rule.

The Virtue of Refusing To Be Discouraged

People of good will have reason to be discouraged. Biden’s approval rating is at a new low. Chances are fading that Democratic Senators Manchin and Simena will allow the Build Back Better program to pass in anything but pathetically watered-down form, and chances that they will allow reform of the filibuster so that voting rights protection and electoral process reform can be enacted seem slimmer every day. Right wing-propelled propaganda and misinformation continue to poison the air. The New York Times reports that Republicans have gained a “heavy House edge in 2022 as Gerrymandered maps emerge.” The spurt in inflation is another blow to Biden’s agenda. The just concluded conference on climate change was a flop. The outlook is bleak on almost every front. Remember though, there is virtue in refusing to be discouraged. There’s always a chance that happy surprises lie ahead.

Headline: Biden’s Approval Rating Drops To New Low

It sounds like Biden isn’t doing a good job as president, even though Democrats control Congress. Suppose Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Simena had the mindsets of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, or for that matter of almost any of the other Democratic senators, Biden’s Build Back Better bill would have been enacted largely intact, voting protection and electoral process integrity legislation would have been enacted, the mood of the country would be a lot better, and Biden’s approval rating would be much higher. It would be the same Biden, doing no better or worse a job than he is now, but luckier.

“The Republican Party is mainstreaming menace as a political tool.”

The above line, a distillation of observations of historians, is from a New York Times article published online last evening about the rise of violence, threats of violence, and encouragement of violence that Republicans have increasingly directed at their opponents, even those who are members of their own party. Trump, Trump-emulating politicians, and propagandist right-wing media, most notably Fox News, have whipped a large segment of the population into a frenzy of hatred and vengefulness. It’s a very disturbing phenomenon that, if it continues to escalate, will almost certainly lead to tragedy.

Countering the Assault on Democracy

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin commented on a new report by the nonpartisan group Protect Democracy on what is needed if American democracy is to be saved from the massive concerted attack on it by authoritarian-minded Republicans and their allies. Example: Republicans have introduced or passed more than 200 bills in state legislatures “that would enable Republican legislatures to dislodge neutral election officials, challenge and overturn results and undermine confidence in election outcomes.”

Unprecedented horrors lie ahead if effective federal legislation to protect voting rights and election integrity isn’t enacted well in advance of next year’s elections. The Protect Democracy report lists other measures that must be taken as well. Otherwise, in a few years, the American experiment, as pundits have oddly taken to calling our constitutional form of government, will have failed.

Republican Reality Check

Any person of good will who thinks of themselves as a Republican and therefore is inclined to vote for or support a Republican running for public office needs to conduct a reality check as to the character of today’s Republican Party –– It’s very different from what it was over the course of many decades during which my parents were committed Republicans. The conclusion from a reality check conducted today must be, as Jennifer Rubin put it an online Washington Post column yesterday: The reality of the Republican Party is “total obstruction, manipulation of voters to foster white resentment, malicious attacks on reality. . . . and preference for. . . authoritarian leadership. . .”

The China / Russia / Climate Problem

In her Washington Post column yesterday the always astute Katrina vanden Heuval pointed out that even if the world leaders who recently convened in Glasgow were able to keep their pledges to reduce carbon emissions, which it appears they don’t have the will or political power to carry through on, two elephants that should have been in the room but weren’t, are Russia and China, both led by dictators who, let us say, lack team spirit. Both of them failed to send representatives to the conference. Both of them represent threats to world peace and stability. Both are inclined to threaten, challenge, and destabilize the U.S. Yet the cooperation of both is requisite to effectively addressing climate change. This presents another challenge to President Biden. He has to reach out to the dictators of these pivotal countries and try to engage their support in saving humanity without acceding to their imperious demands. It’s a seemingly impossible task.

Climate Change and Change Blindness

I recently read a book about the brain in which the author referred to a phenomenon called “change blindness.” When a change takes place relatively slowly, we tend not to notice it. Geological changes take place so slowly that continents may be rising and islands sinking, but at a rate that’s indiscernible over the course of a lifetime. Climate change is faster –– one can discern seemingly slight changes over the course of decades –– but it’s not fast enough to overcome change blindness. That’s what’s happening. Some see it and are waving red flags. Most don’t see it or barely notice it. Others, whether they see it or not, prefer to ignore it.

Wealth and Taxes

A recent article by the historian Jill Lepore told of a birthday party Bill Gates recently gave on a rented yacht anchored in a cove off the coast of Turkey to which he ferried guests by private helicopter, among them Jeff Bezos, who happened to be nearby on his yacht, which, as Lepore noted, is not the same as the yacht he has ordered and is still under construction, as to which I’ve read that even though it will cost half a billion dollars, is not designed to carry a helicopter, but that will not inconvenience Bezos, because he plans to have an assistant yacht that carries a helicopter and can trail along behind his main yacht, ready to be of service when needed. Not only super-billionaires, like Gates and Bezos, but also ordinary multibillionaires and just barely billionaires, and even super multimillionaires, and, come to think of it, even common multimillionaires should be taxed a lot more than they have been.

A Ray of Hope

Having enacted the “bipartisan” infrastructure bill and with some reasonable hope remaining of enacting a watered down “build back better” bill through “reconciliation” (avoiding a Republican filibuster), and some chance left that recalcitrant Democrat senators Simena and Manchin will agree to carving out an exception to the filibuster so the Freedom to Vote bill can be enacted, ensuring that voting rights and election integrity will be at least fairly well protected, and given the reasonable possibility that the economy will continue to improve and that Covid can be beat back further, there is a significant chance that Democrats will prevail in enough swing jurisdictions next year –– enough to provide a ray of hope that American democracy, decency, and rationality will survive, for at least a few years longer, the assaults of greed, cynicism, and malice Republicans and right-wing extremist media are certain to continue to hurl against them.

Torture

Headline: Myanmar’s nightmare now includes systematic torture

Having been responsible for torturing prisoners during the Iraq war and having failed to bring those responsible to justice, the United States has weakened moral authority to exercise world leadership in ending this abhorrent practice.

The Simple Essential Pressing Imperative

Democrats must get effective voting rights and election integrity legislation enacted by Congress within the next few months or American democracy will be lost, perhaps forever.

Headline: “An abnormal Republican Party was treated normally by voters in New Jersey and Virginia”

This was the heading for Washington Post pundit Perry Bacon’s column this morning. It’s the full shocking story in two lines. Voters don’t understand that the Republican Party has become the authoritarian party, the party that failed to remove Trump from office, that tolerates or promotes his Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Joe Biden, that opposed a full-scale investigation of the January 6th insurrection, and is bent on warping election laws so that Republicans will have an unassailable advantage in future elections. If Democrats can’t change this dynamic within the next year, American democracy will not likely survive.

Election Day 2021: a Portent of Bad Things to Come

Even though Biden beat Trump by about 10 percentage points in Virginia in the 2020 election, the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate has been elected governor of that state, beating the well-regarded Democrat candidate by a comfortable margin. The result bodes ill for elections coming up next year and for the 2024 presidential election. A great swath of voters don’t seem to understand that, inspired by Trump and Trump-like politicians and propaganda-spreading right-wing media barons, Republicans have become ruthless in their efforts to bring down our democracy and supplant it with one-party authoritarian rule. If most voters realized this, Democrats would win most elections overwhelmingly.

On the Enormity of Being Aligned with Trump

News Item: “For more than three hours, {President Trump} resisted entreaties from Republican lawmakers and numerous advisers to urge the {January 6th} mob to disperse, a delay that contributed to harrowing acts of violence.”

As I recall, the crime of reckless endangerment is a felony in most jurisdictions. Reckless endangerment is unjustifiable behavior that puts others at a significant risk of grievous injury or death. It’s just one of the crimes for which Trump should be criminally prosecuted. Candidates for office –– most Republican politicians –– who fail to publicly repudiate him thereby descend to his moral plane. Anyone aligned with Trump, whether explicitly or by failing to repudiate him, is unfit to hold public office.

Approval Ratings

I read that Biden’s approval rating had dropped to 42%. This is said to bode ill for the Democrats’s chances in the 2022 elections, and it certainly isn’t encouraging. Biden has performed well in some respects and not so well in other respects. Given the extraordinary challenges he’s had, I think on balance he’s done pretty well. I can see how some people would be so disappointed in him that they would say they “don’t approve,” but this approval rating business produces a misleading and contorted statistic, diverting attention from what’s of overriding importance. Biden may be barely better than O.K. on an absolute scale, but he he’s infinitely preferable to Trump, or any Trump emulator, or anyone who acts as if Trump is fit to serve in public office, which includes almost every Republican. What’s of ultimate importance is that Biden is a highly experienced honorable man who wants to preserve our democracy. I approve of that 100%.

Critical Race Theory

The outcome of the Virginia governor’s race Tuesday may turn on whether enough voters think that Democrats try to get schools to inculcate children with critical race theory, the purpose of which, the more histrionic Republicans, of which there are a lot, say is to make white children feel ashamed of being white. I don’t approve of theories of history. In my view, the term critical race theory should never have been invented. But teaching significant historical facts is right, and, if arguments about “critical race theory” have become publicly significant, teaching about critical race theory, its various meanings and the reactions it has generated, is right. The essence of good teaching of history is good faith proportional coverage and emphasis of significant true facts.

Note from Surreal Land

Because of an absurd, archaic, undemocratic, and seemingly unalterable Senate rule, a single senator can put a “hold” on a presidential nomination. It’s a rule that cries out for abuse, and Republican senators, most notably Ted Cruz, have answered the call. As a result, other than Mexico and Turkey, President Biden has been allowed to name no ambassadors to any of the other countries in the G20. The problem with Cruz has nothing to do with any legitimate substantive consideration and has everything to do with his deeply flawed character.

Hoping for the Best Despite the Following:

Events come and go so thick and fast that often highly significant ones that cry out for attention are all but forgotten within a few days. Last week Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel reported that a great number of “leaked financial records from 14 different ‘offshore’ wealth-service firms” expose how the rich, the superrich, and all varieties of big-time criminals hide their money in tax havens. Thus, the people who should be taxed the most are substantially undertaxed or aren’t taxed at all. Yet, it seems, nothing can be done, Nothing can be done; on to the next problem. Biden hasn’t performed flawlessly, but the challenges he has faced and still faces have been exceptionally rough. The entire Republican Party is dedicated to sabotaging his initiatives and bringing him down, and he has been forced to placate difficult people in his own party. I hope some good parts of his ambitious policy proposals get enacted into law. But whether they do or not, we’ll continue living in more than usual perilous times. If you think of the “civilized” world as a 19th-century sailing ship, it’s leaking from stem to stern, some of its timbers are rotten, its standing rigging is rusty, its running rigging is frayed, the crew is in a mutinous mood, and it’s on course to the tropics, where it will probably be becalmed until the hurricane season arrives.

Note: After writing the above, I read a timely posting by Robert Reich warning against sinking into cynicism and despair.and advocating resilience and constructive engagement.

The Probably Unfixable Limitations of Our Criminal Justice System

A possible reason why the Justice Department hasn’t apparently been more aggressive in conducting a criminal investigation of Trump’s role in inciting the January 6th insurrection and probable commission of other felonies for which there is ample evidence in the public recored is that roughly 25% percent of the jurors in any criminal trial would likely be ones who either believe or pretend to believe his Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him and other monumental falsehoods, and would believe or pretend to believe that the same forces responsible for this purported outrage would be responsible for securing his indictment and trial for criminal wrongdoing –– call them “true believers.”

True believers may be expected to vote for acquittal regardless of overwhelming evidence of guilt.Since a unanimous verdict of twelve jurors is required to secure a conviction, one true believer would be enough to block it. If 25% of prospective members of the jury are true believers, the odds are extremely high that a jury will contain at least one of them. Nor would jury selection procedures likely make much difference. It cannot responsibly be argued that Trump is above the law, but as a practical matter, in the most important respects, he may be.

Facebook

Headline: “Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation”

I must have signed up for Facebook a long time ago, because for years I have had it bookmarked and can scroll down to see postings that appear on it. I never initiate a post but I sometimes click on “like” and occasionally make a comment. A few people I know post with some frequency and I enjoy seeing what they have to say and looking at photos they display. Most of the items I see when I scroll down are posts by public figures, usually prominent progressive political or media figures. Many postings are political fund raising requests. Facebook obviously steered these people to me. Every now and then I see a post by the Dalai Lama and have found them inspiring. I’m never exposed to hate speech or conspiracy theories. Facebook’s famous algorithms presumably wall me off from such noxious stuff, which, the company steers receptive people toward, cranking up vitriol and misinformation, playing on people’s worst instincts and inflicting harm on others and on society. It’s clear from what I’ve read that Facebook hasn’t come close to adequately responding to such exposés. The company needs to be regulated, but this is tricky business because of First Amendment considerations. Unless someone comes up with a better solution soon, it would be best to break Facebook up.

The Party of Thugs

This is the title of a column by Paul Waldman in yesterday’s online Washington Post. You can guess what he’s talking about. Instead of repudiating the thug-in-chief, Republican politicians have opted en masse to emulate him. Here’s the test, as Waldman puts it: “Can you give offense, can you make people cringe, can you do your part to make our politics as mean and unpleasant as possible?” Alarming numbers of people have no trouble answering in the affirmative and acting accordingly.

Not all Republican members of Congress meet Trump’s requirements for being a thug –– he has set a exceptionally high bar, yet is eager to raise it. Some Republicans are temperate in their rhetoric and behavior. But with near unanimity, they support or fail to refute Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him. They create confusion and chaos and cultivate public ignorance and false beliefs. Yeats’s line, “the worst are full of passionate intensity,” flies out of his poem and sticks to them.

One of the Ways in which Inequality Grows

Most income of most people is in the form of salaries or wages. The amount paid in each case is reported to the IRS. Taxpayers can’t cheat. Richer people tend to have more income as to which there’s no way the IRS can check to see if it’s accurate. The IRS estimated in 2019 that Americans conceal from taxation more than half of income that is not subject to some form of third-party verification.

From the government’s point of view (and from the honest taxpayer’s point of view), it would be highly cost effective to set up procedures to minimize such leakage of tax revenues. Unfortunately, it’s the policy of Republican political leaders to keep the IRS underfunded so that the agency isn’t able to adequately enforce tax collection. Republican big donors to political campaigns, on average, prefer to donate smaller amounts to friendly politicians than pay larger amounts in taxes.

Another Illustration of the Transformation of the Republican Party

Last week, Congress voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for defying the subpoena issued by the select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. The last time this happened was almost forty years ago, and the vote was unanimous. Every member of both parties understood that if a witness can defy a subpoena to testify or hand over documents that are material and relevant to an investigation, Congress’s oversight function, an important feature of our Constitutional system of government, would be crippled. In Bannon’s case, all but nine House Republicans voted against holding him in contempt, illustrating, once again, the transformation of the Republican Party into an assemblage of unprincipled, authoritarian, truth-denying opportunists.

Good Will and Bad Faith

Good will is a core concept. The idea is that everyone is flawed, some lose perspective or never gain it, some lose their temper when they shouldn’t, some are too anxious to please or to cut corners if that’s what it takes to prevail, some are too often thoughtless about how they behave hurts others. But in my experience the vast majority of people have a basic sense of good will; they have an innate sense of decency. It’s more than disturbing to see that ethos, that basic unwritten compact that holds society together, systematically assaulted by issuers of false and malicious rhetoric. Mean-spiritedness and bad faith are ascendant. They are directing the course of events. To borrow the title of the last book of the late journalist Tony Judt, “Ill Fares the Land.” We have to hope that, like the pandemic, this distressing phase of history will pass.

Hate Waiting To Happen

A remark made by Joe Biden the other day neatly expressed something I’ve been thinking about: “Hate never goes away,” Biden said. “In all the years I’ve been involved [in politics], I thought once we got through it, it would go away. But it doesn’t. It only hides. It only hides until some seeming legitimate person breathes some oxygen under the rocks where they’re hiding and gives it some breath.”

There are a lot of sulky, aggrieved, resentful, uninformed, and misinformed people who mostly aren’t usually particularly vocal or civically engaged, but are responsive to incitement by demagogic characters who exude hate and spew lies and venom. That’s the oxygen Biden is referring to, and these people, when they are exposed to this kind of noxious drivel from Trump or Trump-emulators, lack the innate decency of character to act responsibly and they feel relief in exuding hate and spewing lies and venom too. It makes them feel like, finally, they are contenders.

Republican Senators

Yesterday, taking advantage of the filibuster rule, Republican senators, voting unanimously, blocked debate on the Freedom to Vote bill. They don’t want to debate whether proposed legislation to ensure free and fair elections is desirable. They know that they would lose the debate, because they have no serious arguments against it and are themselves engaged in undermining democracy. They don’t want to perpetuate democratic processes. They are so desperate in their desire to achieve authoritarian one-party rule that they are are willing to support as their candidate an ignorant, crude, mean-spirited, bullying, megalomaniacal sociopath. They are ––every one of them –– guilty of the crime of reckless endangerment of American democracy.

Heading Nowhere

In 2017, the Trump administration’s great legislative initiative, revising the tax code to sharply reduce taxes on corporations and provide even greater tax breaks than already existed for the rich and especially for the super rich, sailed through the Republican-controlled Congress in a flash of time. It now appears that after prolonged struggle, Democrats may be able to enact only a grievously diluted version of Biden’s plan to strengthen our country. address to some degree crippling and unconscionable economic inequities, and combat climate change. In blocking legislation, Republicans and “moderate” Democrats are pinning our country down, stifling progress, and snuffing out opportunities. One example: In a Washington Post column yesterday, Katrina vanden Heuvel reported that “the average country in the Western industrialized world spends $14,436 annually per child on toddler care. The United States spends a measly $500.” This is the kind of country it appears we will continue to be.

Inequality and Public Policy

One might think that wealth inequality, which has been increasing for decades, would by now have reached a point where those entrusted with running our government would with near unanimity think, and publicly disclose that they think, that we could accomplish a great deal more as a nation, we could lift ourselves up from our present sorry state, if we adopted policies of the sort President Biden dreams of, and policies that he hasn’t dreamed of, because, after all, although he is a decent man, he can’t think of everything, and they would be much better policies because those entrusted with running our government would all be working toward the same goal and wouldn’t carve out innumerable exceptions to satisfy lobbyists employed by rich donors and corporations who are benefactors of compliant politicians, and they would be policies more finely tuned to be efficient in achieving the results the Biden dreams of and beyond what Biden dreams of, for it turns out that cost is not a problem: All that’s needed is to restructure our tax and subsidy system, which grossly favors the rich, the really rich, and even more, the super rich, and even more, the oligarchal characters perched on the tops of their respective shining hills. The statistics prove it. One among dozens that leap off the page: “The wealth in stocks alone for the top 1 percent increased by more than $6.5 trillion over the course of the pandemic.” The money’s there. A lot more of it should be directed toward the common good.

The Virginia Election

An election scheduled in Virginia two weeks from now will determine who that state’s next governor will be, McAuliffe a Democrat, or Youngkin, a Republican. Democrats want to preserve our democracy, Republicans want to convert our system of government to one-party authoritarian rule. According to pollsters, the race is a close one. Not that many years ago, I would have thought that any candidate who is a member of a party that wants to convert our system of government to one-party authoritarian rule would get only a handful of votes, all of them from crackpots. How times change.

An Example of Why Humankind May Not Be Able To Save Itself from Extinction.

California has decided to ban gasoline-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Besides being noisy, smelly and, especially in the case of leaf blowers, generally irksome, they emit a tremendous amount of toxic pollution and greenhouse emissions. This is the kind of reform that should have been instituted throughout the world years ago, but won’t be replicated in most jurisdictions for a long time, if ever, which is another example of how humankind seems unable to act collectively and rationally to save itself.

Fusion Energy

If one is aiming to write a blog every day about what’s going on in the world that catches one’s eye, there’s never any shortage of material or subject matter: To give an example, last week I read an article in The New Yorker about fusion energy, which unlike fission energy, which powers all the world’s nuclear energy plants, doesn’t produce radioactive waste, doesn’t carry the risk of meltdown and radioactive contamination, and produces a much more energy per pound of fuel. It’s been demonstrated to work in an experimental unit –– the physics is well understood –– but it is devilishly hard to build a nuclear fusion power plant in a way that would be commercially feasible. That goal may be reachable and it may not, but since fusion energy may be our only hope of arresting global warming, we should have spent and should be spending a lot more money trying to develop it. If the United States had spent on it a very small fraction of what it has spent subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, we might have solved the problems that thus far have been preventing fusion from becoming humankind’s cheap ticket to ubiquitous clean safe energy.

The Epidemic of Madness that Plagues the Land

I saw a video clip last evening that showed a Trump supporter pledging allegiance to an American flag that he thought had been waved by one of the thugs who stormed the capitol on January 6th. Might there be an as yet unidentified virus that infects people’s brains and makes them go crazy? I don’t know of a better explanation as to why a large segment of the population has been propelled to idolize the dangerous sociopathic former president. How can it be that every Republican senator and almost every Republican member of the House of Representatives clings to him and seeks his blessing, and that it means more to them than honesty, decency, and American democracy? They seem to have been stricken by a particularly vicious strain of the virus, one that destroys the moral compass in the brain.

The Dark Prospect for the 2024 Presidential Election

In a chilling op-ed in yesterday’s online Washington Post, Paul Waldman persuasively argued that Trump will almost certainly run for president in 2024 and that no Republican will oppose him, raising the beyond horrifying prospect of a second Trump presidency. Moreover, even if Trump loses the election, he will again claim that it was stolen from him, and this time Republicans will likely have set in place a much more sophisticated and coordinated framework for overturning the election and installing him as president, effectively ending American democracy. We can only hope that events during the coming months will result in a happier scenario.

One of the Most Maddening Set of Facts of the Day

Pharmaceutical prices in the United States are higher than in other countries. Practically everyone in the United States thinks Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. This would bring pharmaceutical prices down close to reasonable levels, save lives, reduce hospitalizations, and reduce economic hardship without disincentivizing new drug development. All Republicans oppose this measure, because its enactment would reflect well on Biden, and their policy is to oppose any measure that would reflect well on Biden. All Democratic senators favor the measure except Krysten Sinema, of Arizona, who accepts large campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies. This not bribery. There is no quid pro quo. The pharmaceutical companies favor her because they know she is a reliable ally.

The Interrelationship between Trump and Democracy

Former United States National Security specialist in Russian and European affairs Fiona Hill: “If he {Trump} makes a successful return to the presidency in 2024, democracy’s done.”

This is true, as is that: If democracy’s done, he {Trump} will make a successful return to the presidency in 2024.

The Task Ahead for Biden and Defenders of Democracy

President Joe Biden’s approval rating has slipped, but if all voters understood what’s been going on in this country –– that the vast majority of Republicans (i) promote or play along with Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, (ii) pretend that he was not the principal instigator of the January 6th insurrection, (iii) ignore that he illegally tried and isn’t continuing to illegally try to reinstate himself as president, (iv) have no policy other than to obstruct and derail the administration’s agenda, (v) have put forth no alternative substantive policy proposals, and (v) are engaged in a concerted effort to warp the electoral process in such a manner that Republicans will control the government even if a majority of voters don’t want them to –– Biden’s approval rating vis-a-vis the disgraced former president would be far higher. Biden and all defenders of democracy must get it across to the public that the upcoming elections will not be a contest between candidates who are traditional Democrats and candidates who are traditional Republicans, but between candidates who want to preserve American democracy and candidates who want to convert our form of government to one-party authoritarian rule.

America’s Second Civil War

The opposing forces are still mobilizing and positioning themselves in America’s second civil war. We know that key battles will take place in the elections in 2022 and 2024. Hard fought skirmishes will occur in the meantime and right into 2025.

It’s too early to accurately assess the strength of the forces of each side. A supposedly neutral party, the Supreme Court of the United States, which, as one astute commentator has observed, has become “a cynical enabler of right-wing extremists,” will likely supply armaments to the Republicans, which could give them a decisive advantage.

Midnight in Washington

“Despair is a luxury we can’t afford,” writes House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff in his new book, Midnight in Washington –– How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could. Carlos Losada, reviewing the book in the Washington Post, notes that Schiff “is more interested in the insurrectionists wearing suits and ties than in the shirtless ones in buffalo horns.” There are a lot more of those suits-and-ties people, and they are better financed and in far more formidable positions power than the thuggish characters who invaded the Capitol and threatened the lives of legislators, and they are working concertedly and continuously to bring our democracy down. It’s not too much to say that the United States is engaged in a second civil war. Tumultuous times lie ahead.

A Feeling of Disquietude

I woke up in the night with a feeling of disquietude. The cause is the state of our country, and for that matter, the whole world. Greed and hatred are proliferating. Malevolent forces are on the ascendent. It’s as if Trump was a pathogen that escaped from the lab and infected a great swath of the population. Clear-eyed Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin is more accurate than hyperbolic in observing that “The sane faction of the GOP could probably fit around a dining room table.” 

Note from Surreal Land

As far as I know, no member of Congress in either political party has argued that it would be a good thing if the United States of America, the world’s greatest democracy, what Lincoln called the “last best hope of earth,” defaulted on its debts, which is apparently what will happen if Congress doesn’t act to raise the debt ceiling. Yet every Republican member of the senate has taken the position that Democrats must raise the debt limit ceiling without the support of any Republican votes. Moreover, Republicans promise to filibuster any attempt by Democrats to do so. This political maneuver is designed to associate in the public’s mind the notion that Democrats are reckless big spenders and Republicans are guardians of the fiscal integrity. Republicans ignore that they raised the debt ceiling three times during the tenure of the Trump administration, in the course of which some eight trillion dollars was added to the national debt, a substantial portion of which is attributable to tax cuts for big corporations, the rich, and especially the super rich. Republican posturing over the debt ceiling is hypocritical, cynical, irresponsible, and starkly contrary to the public interest, and very much in keeping with their basic policy of institutional nihilism.

Yesterday, in an act of affected graciousness, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered to allow the debt ceiling to be raised for a couple of months, a tactic designed to perpetuate the state of uncertainty, confusion, and chaos that he and his followers have chosen to impose upon the country.

Note from The Wild West

Lauren Boebert, the notorious owner of the Shooter’s Grill, in Rifle, Colorado, and that state’s 3rd C.D, representative, is one of the most morally and intellectually unqualified members of Congress. No wonder six citizens are competing for the Democratic nomination to oppose her in next year’s election. None of them seem particularly impressive, though any one of them would be a tremendous improvement over Boebert. Boebert herself may face a primary challenge from a more moderate member of her party. It’s like an old-time Western movie out here in Colorado, except it’s a long ways from certain that the good guys will win.

A Model for Spiritual Instruction

Religions and, for that matter, secular self-improvement movements are vulnerable to being corrupted by self-seeking profiteering huckstering promoters pitching ways in which you can get ahead, feel good, and find success by following their instructions, donating to their enterprises, and enriching their promoters. The Dalai Lama is of a rarer sort. He doesn’t purport to align himself with some divine truth, catechism, sacred text, or mystical knowledge. Thus, he wrote recently, “What we need today are universal values based not on faith but on scientific findings, common experience and common sense.” How refreshing. How unpretentious. How sensible.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States begins its new term today, just after getting a supremely low approval rating from the American public –– 40%. Recently, Justice Amy Coney Barrett asserted that the Court is not just “a bunch of partisan hacks.” Even more recently, Justice Samuel Alito declared that the Court is not “a dangerous cabal.” Such defensiveness! Unfortunately, save for a minority of honorable exceptions, the reverse is true on both counts. American democracy won’t be out of the intensive care unit unless and until the Court is reconstituted as a rational non-doctrinaire decision-making body that places the law above personal ideology.

The Egoist

Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema appears to be blithely willing to torpedo president Biden’s legislative agenda and thereby facilitate Republican efforts to supplant American democracy with one-party authoritarian rule. She seems to be such an egoist that her field of vision does not extend beyond her imagined short-term personal interests. She may single-handedly take down the country, not realizing, as is typical of egoists, that in her garish self-absorption, she is taking down herself.

It’s an Old Story

1920: W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”: “The worst are full of passionate intensity.”

1955: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Triste Tropiques: “I have never known so much naive conviction allied to greater intellectual poverty.”

2021: Jennifer Rubin: “The ignorance of our elected officials is matched only by their conviction they can bamboozle their equally ignorant constituents.”

People Who Don’t Care and People Who Do

So many people are corrupt, each out for himself or herself, and the public be damned, it’s disheartening, but one can’t despair; there are even more people with noble souls who care about others, and humanity, and the world. Yesterday, I read an article by a woman who’s concerned about the water quality in our rivers. She rightly urges that we should improve them. To check out the situation first-hand, this past summer she swam in 108 rivers in the United States. She said that “most were varying degrees of disgusting.” That’s a definitive scientifically sound report in my opinion, and bad news, but it’s also uplifting to read, giving hope that people like this intrepid swimmer, people who care, may save us. 


American Democracy

American Democracy is fighting for its life. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote the other day, “It’s now clear we have one party that would gladly swap U.S. democracy for a tin-pot dictatorship with its champion at the helm.” Democrats want to save our democracy, and they would be able to save it if two Democratic senators weren’t unwilling to reform the anti-democratic filibuster rule that’s enabling Republicans to thwart voting rights protection legislation. It seems more likely than not that a great tragedy will befall us.

A Ted Talk Worth Watching

Notice of a Ted Talk appears in my email inbox almost every day. Occasionally I watch one. I didn’t have to think twice yesterday before watching Crystia Freeland, an enormously intelligent and well-informed Canadian who tends to hold top posts in that country’s government. Her topic was The Rise of the Super Rich. The proliferation of the super rich, who tower over ordinary extremely rich people and acquire such staggering amounts of wealth that they can influence national policy is a world-wide phenomenon. Productivity trends up and up. Wages stay relatively flat. Money rules. Oligarchies arise.

The Justice Department Must Prosecute Trump

The evidence is far more than abundant that, in addition to whatever other crimes he has committed, Trump committed multiple federal and state felonies in the course of his efforts, which appear to still be ongoing, to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and effect a coup by which he would retain his office despite being voted out of it. The Justice Department must not allow itself to be intimidated by threats and bullying behavior of Trump and his supporters. We must not accept the principle of “too big to jail.” To do so would be to cede American democracy to a bunch of thugs masquerading as public servants. Attorney General Merrick Garland, despite his impeccable character, incomparable qualifications, and superb professional record, is likely to be remembered as a dismal failure if he fails to prosecute Trump.

Report from the World’s Leading Plutocracy

Big corporations and superrich donors fund politicians who reciprocate by enacting tax laws that please big corporations and superrich donors. What’s the result? White House statement: “We estimate that the 400 wealthiest families paid an average Federal individual income tax rate of 8.2 percent on $1.8 trillion of income over the period 2010–2018.” You don’t have to be an egalitarian to grasp that the superrich get away with paying a puny amount in taxes. From the perspective of anyone concerned for the common good, they should be paying a lot more.

Bottom Feeders

Gregg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, quickly acceded to disgraced former president Trump’s demand that Texas conduct an Arizona style sham audit of the Texas vote count in the 2020 presidential election even though in that election Trump won the state of Texas by a sizable margin. Of course, it’s not the result of the election Trump is questioning, it’s the electoral process itself. He is trying to inculcate in the public’s mind that elections are fraudulent by nature, which is why it would be justifiable for state officials and members of Congress to refuse to recognize presidential election results if a Democrat wins the most electoral votes in 2024. That people like Abbott and Florida governor Ron DeSantis are eager to do Trump’s bidding, regardless of how destructive and irrational an act it requires, is a marker of the base moral plane such people live on, a foul expanse inhabited by most Republican politicians and right wing media personalities.

The Tragic Transformation of the Republican Party

It should be evident to anyone who follows the course of public affairs in the United States that the unifying agenda of the Republican Party has become dedicated to obtaining and retaining power regardless of harm inflicted on the country. In furtherance of this goal, Republicans at all levels and in all branches of government have banded together to promote and practice what Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin calls “institutional nihilism.”

The Critical Importance of Federal Legislation to Reform Presidential Election Processes

The details are too complex to lay out here, but the procedures for electing the president of the United States are so misconceived, unclear, and convoluted that in certain circumstances, which it happens are likely to obtain in 2024, it’s quite possible that the party controlling Congress and key swing state legislatures and secretaries of state could install its candidate as president contrary to the electoral vote tally reflecting the will of the people. The only way we can be assured that this won’t happen is for Congress to pass remedial legislation controlling election procedures. The Proposed Freedom to Vote Act has been introduced in Congress for this purpose. All Republican members of Congress oppose it. Even though the survival of American democracy is at stake, present indications are that it won’t become law.

Notes from Surreal Land

Headline: “U.S. careens toward shutdown; financial crisis.”
News item: A study says that, if the U.S. defaults on its debt, it would trigger a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions, leading to loss of six million jobs and fifteen trillion dollars in wealth.

Classic military strategy calls for the artillery to soften up the enemy’s defenses, then send in the infantry to capture new territory. Republican strategy is based on the same idea: Create chaos to soften the ground for staging a coup and installing an authoritarian regime. The line fed the public is that things have gotten so bad that only this strong and uncompromising leader can fix it.

Taking a Close Look at a Big Number

A recent poll indicated that 78% of Republicans think that Biden stole the 2020 presidential election. That’s a proposition that, since the election, the disgraced former president and heavyweight Republican politicians and right-wing media personalities have been professing to believe in or assert is a reasonable possibility with such persistence that tens of millions of voters believe that it is, or might well be true, though there is no evidence that it is true and overwhelming evidence that it is false.

It’s so preposterous, in fact, that we can be sure that a large percentage of Republicans who answered the poll question by saying that they think Biden stole the election don’t believe any such thing, but answered in the affirmative because it’s the policy of the Republican Party and its leaders to sow doubt about the legitimacy of our electoral policies in order to justify enacting laws calculated to put Republicans in power in upcoming elections. It has become standard operating procedure for “good” Republicans to say they believe Biden stole the election even though they know he didn’t.

How a Plutocracy Works –– an Example

Most dividends on stocks, which are overwhelmingly held by the super rich, the rich, and the well-off, are taxed at an especially low rate, a sign of the pro-plutocratic tilt in our tax system. Moreover, Amazon and many other huge companies pay no dividends, so the value of shares go up because all earnings are plowed back into the company. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is worth in the neighborhood of 200 billion dollars. Only a trifle of what he has accumulated has been taxed because it’s treated as “unrealized capital gains.” If Bezos were to die, the law provides that the cost basis of his stock will be stepped up to market value, which means that his capital gains will be ignored. As Robert Reich has pointed out, this “‘stepped-up basis’ tax loophole allows heirs of billionaires to avoid capital gains taxes on inherited assets.Closing this loophole is an absolute no-brainer. But Dems on the House Ways and Means Committee wouldn’t even touch it.”

Even Democrats are reluctant to raise taxes on the rich. That’s how entrenched a plutocracy we’re in.

The Hour is Nigh

With unusual precision and clarity, an online New York Times editorial appearing yesterday laid it out: Republicans, who control most key state legislatures and state houses, rightly think that, given their stances on key issues, their chances of gaining control of Congress and the White House will be greatly diminished unless they can (i) institute voting laws designed to exclude a substantial number of voters likely to vote for Democratic candidates, and (ii) where possible, place responsibility for tabulating and certifying votes in the hands of partisan hacks who will manipulate the vote count in favor of Republican candidates.

Within the next couple of weeks, the proposed Freedom to Vote Act, introduced by Democrats and passage of which is critical to ensuring a reasonable degree of integrity in our electoral processes, will come before Congress for a vote. Since no Republican is expected to support it, there is virtually no chance it will become law unless all Democratic senators agree to modify the filibuster rule, so it can pass with a mere majority of votes rather than require 60% of them. What happens is likely to be pivotal in American history.

Changing Times

Depending on the outcome of a runoff, the next mayor of Boston will be either Michelle Wu, daughter of immigrants from Taiwan, or Essaibi George, daughter of immigrants from Tunisia and Poland. I guess this is the kind of thing that freaks out the MAGA crowd.

Notes from Surreal Land

Rachel Maddow reported that a recent poll indicated that 78% of Republicans believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Biden, up from 70% in April. This is an utterly whacko belief, right up there with the Earth is flat and not far behind the moon is made of green cheese, yet it is cultivated, perpetuated, and elaborated upon, for example with fanstastical orchestrations such as the faux audit of election results in Arizona, now being copied in other states with Republican-controlled legislatures. Our country faces multiple critical challenges. Our ability to deal with them is being hobbled by, to evoke Yeat’s poem “The Second Coming,” “the worst,” who are “full of passionate intensity.”

On Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Implying That She Is Not a Partisan Hack

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, after being introduced by no-holds-barred hyperpartisan Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at a venue named for him in Kentucky asserted that she and her high court colleagues aren’t “a bunch of partisan hacks.” This reminded me of a speech made by President Richard Nixon shortly before he was forced to resign for criminally covering up the Watergate burglary, in which he asserted that “I am not a crook.”

Criminal Politicians and Media Figures

A new study reported in The New York Times indicates that if everyone in the United States had become vaccinated as soon as they had a chance, deaths from the pandemic would be many thousands less than the 35,700 reported so far. Politicians and media figures who have discouraged people from being vaccinated or created doubt or confusion among people as to whether federally approved Covid vaccines are safe and effective (which they are), have engaged in reckless endangerment of the lives of millions of people. As I recall, in New York State, and likely in many other states, reckless endangerment is a felony, and reckless endangerment resulting in death an even more serious one.

These reckless and cynical politicians and media figures won’t be prosecuted for the deaths and suffering for which they are responsible, though in a real sense they are criminals.

Vaccine Refusers

What is one to do with these people? They are misguided. They are irrational. Some kind of fear controls their decision making. Powerful emotional forces within them are at work. The more one tries to shame them, argue with them, or coerce them, the more their fear ratchets up, the more adamant they become. One must consider that most of them are no more able to will themselves to abandon their intransigence than they would be able to shake off a Covid infection by willing it to go away.

In situations where it’s feasible, we have to offer alternatives that are emotionally acceptable to them, like weekly testing. We have to empathize with them and gently try to enlighten them and hope that they will gradually come to see that it’s in both their own self-interest and in the interest of others to do what they can to subdue the virus that is the common enemy of us all.

The Pandemic of Irrationality

News Item: A county hospital in upstate New York announced that it will have to stop delivering babies because six staffers resigned and seven more are considering resigning because they don’t want to comply with the hospital’s Covid-19 mandate.

The chief reason why freedom of speech is thought to be desirable is that in the clash of opinions and claims, truth will win out. In situations where there are rational positions to be taken on both sides or where the facts are ambiguous, falsehood may temporarily prevail, but cases where all but an insignificant number of people should readily grasp that the evidence in favor of one proposition and against an opposing one is overwhelming should be quickly resolved.

Presently, we are experiencing a pandemic of irrationality. It’s impossible to predict how long it will last, how much suffering it will produce, or how many deaths it will cause. No cure or vaccine for it has yet been found.

Children of the Same Foul Spirit

Former President George W. Bush, referring at a 9/ll memorial ceremony to the violent extremists who, stirred to action by Trump and his allies, stormed and occupied the Capitol on January 6th in an attempt to block certification of Joe Biden as president: “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.”

Did any of the Trumpian members of Congress who opposed a Congressional investigation of the January 6 insurrection, promote the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and are working to set the stage for undermining and, if necessary, overturning the next one wince upon hearing or reading these words? I doubt it. They have already proved that they lack any such emotional capability. Like a former generation’s infamous United States senator, Joe McCarthy, they have no sense of decency. They are incapable of shame.

The Party of Nihilism

It’s not useful to pretend otherwise: Republicans have hitched their wagon to the malevolent star of Trumpism. The Republican Party has become the party of nihilism. The overarching theme of Republican policy positions is negativism. The Republican agenda, regardless of the consequences, is to undermine everything the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats are trying to accomplish. As Jennifer Rubin has pointed out in her Washington Post columns, Republicans have demonstrated that they will not change their ways unless they are enlightened by being voted out of office.

Republicans voted en masse against investigating the January 6th insurrection and attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The Republican House minority leader threatened to retaliate against companies that provide information to the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. Republicans have undermined the Administration’s attempts to control and end the pandemic, save lives, and reduce misery. Republican have worked on every level to undermine electoral processes to their own advantage. They have demonstrated that they are not responsible opponents and critics of the Administration’s agenda and responsible proponents of alternative policies, but a destructive and dangerous menace.

Thugs

A friend forwarded to me an op-ed article that suggested that the main problem in America is stupidity. It’s true that stupidity is a big problem, but it’s less of one than either malice, cynicism, mean-spiritedness, greed (whether for money or power), or anti-social behavior to gain the approval of others in one’s cult. These are the characteristics of thugs. These are the qualities that distinguish the character of Donald Trump and his allies and followers. They are displayed in the behavior of politicians and others claiming that mask mandates and vaccination requirements are assaults on sacred values of liberty, when in fact they are sensible measures to save lives and reduce misery. They are displayed in the behavior of politicians and others who promote or acquiesce in Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen and that our electoral processes can’t be trusted and should be set aside when they say so.

Adolph Hitler was a magnet for attracting thugs during the years of the Weimar Republic. Just about every thug in Germany flocked to him. Trump unleashed the thuggish potential of millions of Americans. It’s not unlikely that as large a percentage of the population of our country are thugs or potential thugs as was the case in Germany almost a century ago. Thugs don’t normally determine the character of a nation and the course of history, but in certain circumstances they do.

Biden’s Big Infrastructure Plan

Biden’s big infrastructure plan is designed to lift our country up on all fronts. We’re long overdue for the kinds of initiatives and reforms and nudges and upgrades our country needs, big investments, for example, serious climate-change measures and expanding child care and pre-K care and education, that will yield longterm dividends. The cost, 3.5 trillion, sounds frighteningly high, but that’s the amount spread out over a 10-year period. The cost per year is only 350 billion: not that much compared to the cost of subsidizing big corporations and rich people with a rigged tax code that was enacted by legislators subsidized by big corporations and rich people, a regime that can be scaled down a lot. Even the fat cats would benefit, because they would start living in a more enlightened country and could breathe easier, literally.

A Tale of Two Neighbors

It’s ironic, or some kind of poetic justice, that the Mexican Supreme Court decriminalized abortions within days after Mexico’s Trumpian types-controlled neighbor, the former Mexican province of Texas, passed the most insidious, repressive, illegal (under federal law), and unconstitutional (because the Supreme Court has not yet overruled Roe v. Wade) anti-abortion legislation in United States history. Humanitarian values blossom in Mexico. Self-righteousness and cruelty reign in Texas.

Getting Used to It

Historically, normal early September daily high temperatures where I live, at 6,600’ altitude in southwest Colorado, are in the high seventies or low eighties. Nice. But the forecast for this week is for the high to reach 90 five days in a row. That doesn’t prove there’s global warming going on, but maybe the New York Times online video map does. You can check every day to see how smoke mostly from the California fires spreads across western United States. Of course it’s much worse near where the fires are.

You know about the frog in the pot of water that slowly gets hotter and hotter, but the frog doesn’t jump out because the pot’s heating up so slowly that the frog doesn’t notice. This may be just a story and not really true for frogs, but it does seem to be true for humans. I’ve gotten to take it for granted –– it seems perfectly normal –– that I should check the smoke forecast every morning, just the way I used to check whether it might rain today.

Labor Day Thoughts

It’s ironic that Labor Day is apparently the day unemployment revenues end for millions of people. Republicans talk as if all these people could have gotten jobs, but instead of finding work they sit around expecting and accepting free handouts. There’s a shortage of workers for many jobs, but a lot of people can’t find a job because the skills they have aren’t needed for as many jobs as they used to be, and they don’t have skills that are needed for the kind of jobs that are available. Minimum wage jobs or grueling unpleasant jobs are the only kind of jobs a lot of these people can get, and the federal minimum wage requirement has remained stagnant for decades while the rich and those with the right kind of jobs have been making a lot more and are helped in doing so by tax laws that are in many respects highly regressive and full of loopholes and breaks that favor the rich and influential, and people working at minimum wage can’t make enough to get above the poverty line, and a lot of people who have been out of work for months are shunned or ignored when they try to get a job, and a lot of people don’t get enough to eat or have been, or are in danger of being, evicted out onto the street and aren’t able to get minimally decent health care, and a lot of children are deprived of adequate educational opportunities. The problem isn’t laziness so much as it is that we live in a plutocracy, and too many people who are either mean-spirited, or selfish, or misguided are in positions of power and calling the shots.

Nightmare: A Competent Trump

From time to time I make notes for possible blogs. Sometimes they are just fragments, and I don’t draw on them for a particular blog. Some become fragments of nightmares, like this one, which followed reading the transcript of Michael Moore’s interview with the veteran journalist and Biblical scholar Chris Hedges, who rightly worries that a “competent Trump” becomes president, “a competent fascist who, when they attempt to carry out a coup, actually have organized it to make it work.”

Disaster Areas

Wind Damage, fires, and floods have resulted in various parts of the country being declared a disaster area. if this keeps up, there may be a concatenation of adverse weather events that results in the entire country being declared a disaster area. The most worrisome disaster area is American democracy itself, the latest, perhaps most disturbing indication of which is that a majority of members of the Supreme Court have subordinated fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law to their personal idealogical convictions.

The Supreme Court and American Democracy

There is an old saying: “The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.” One always presumes that members of the Supreme Court, having been carefully vetted for character and competence and being exceptionally well schooled in the law, will do their best to interpret the Constitution with objectivity and intellectual honesty, and that, however they rule on a Constitutional or other question, it will be based on intellectually defensible reasoning. What if in some cases it isn’t? What if in the worst case, a majority of justices on the Court are of a mind to subordinate the law and the Constitution to their personal ideology? The old saying holds. There is no appeal. And when it happens, it constitutes a possibly mortal wounding of American democracy.

The Tragedy of the Republican Party is America’s Tragedy

Republicans, including the ideologically driven justices who control the Supreme Court, have abandoned all pretense of wanting to preserve American Democracy. The court rejected without comment an emergency petition challenging the new Texas statute restricting abortion that is clearly unconstitutional under existing jurisprudence and empowers self-appointed vigilantes to enforce certain provisions and awards them of bounties for doing so. The law, setting compliant citizens against noncompliant ones, is straight out of the authoritarian playbook. In a no less contemptible exhibition of authoritarian tactics, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader of the House, warned all the companies that were requested to supply relevant information and records to the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection that, if they complied with the committee’s request, Republicans would take revenge against them if they gained control of Congress in next year’s elections.

It’s evident beyond doubt that if Republicans gain control of Congress, they will exercise no restraint in seeking to undermine our democratic principles and institutions in an effort to subject our country to unshakeable long-term one-party rule.

Explaining Behavior of Seemingly Crazy Republicans

One can understand why so many Republicans promote, or at least entertain, or at least look benignly on the Big Lie that our election processes are hopelessly flawed and that the election was stolen from Trump. The reason is that (i) it gives them cover for corrupting and contorting election processes sufficiently so they can gain control both houses of Congress in the 2022 elections and the presidency in the 2024 election, even though a majority of people wouldn’t want that to happen, and (ii) they lack sufficient character and courage to hew to the truth and uphold American democracy if it means that doing so would diminish their chances of gaining power.

That doesn’t quite explain why so many Republicans cast phony doubts on Covid vaccine and why prominent GOP governors like DeSantis (Florida) and Abbott (Texas) ban, or try to ban, mask mandates in schools and other venues, even though their efforts ensure increased spreading of the virus, more hospitalizations, and more deaths. One would think that their crazy tactics would be politically counter-productive. Why do they pursue them? I think the answer is that successfully corrupting and contorting the election process requires sowing confusion and stimulating distrust in government. The more confusion and distrust in government there is, the more likely they are to succeed in gaining power. Their seemingly crazy behavior makes perfect sense.

The Democrats’ Task

The worst thing about the messy, painful, dismaying U.S. pullout from Afghanistan may be the political damage to Biden, threatening to tip the scales against Democrats in the 2022 elections, an event from which disastrous consequences would surely ensue. That’s why it’s more important than ever that as Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has stressed, “Democrats need to do a much better job explaining how radical, unhinged and dangerous the {Republican} party is.” 

Biden’s Task

Stanford professor and former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has laid out the requirements of addressing an important opportunity and challenge Biden has with respect to Ukraine, a critically important country that Putin wants to dominate, subdue, and enfold into his empire. Ukraine has exhibited considerable resilience and independent democratic characteristics, and has a president who has learned a lot since Trump tried to get him to do him “a favor.” To save American democracy and keep alive hope for the world, Biden and his team must undertake constructive engagement and action with respect to Ukraine and on every other important front at home and abroad. Biden’s Afghanistan lapses need not be the defining mark of his presidency.

The Supreme Court and American Democracy

If Democrats get firm control of the White House and both houses of Congress (an unlikely event, though one that’s probably necessary if American Democracy is to be saved), they need to reshape the Supreme Court through legislative reforms, instituting term limits, and probably increasing its size. Their purpose in doing so would not be to politicize the judiciary. To the contrary, it would be to depoliticize the Court and rehabilitate it as an institution distinguished for its integrity, intellectual honesty, and fidelity to the Constitution and the law.

Robert Reich, in one of his acute observations on the state of our nation, has supplied the reason why this is so: “Today’s Supreme Court majority is a group of knee-jerk conservatives whose intellectual leader (to the extent they have one) is Samuel Alito, perhaps the most conceptually rigid and cognitively dishonest justice since Roger Taney.”

The Ubiquity of Religious Perversion

News Item: “Some senior members of the Buddhist clergy have given their blessing to the generals in power.”

The generals referred to seized power in Myanmar (Burma), jailed elected leaders, fired on protestors, and imposed brutal tyrannical rule on the country, the antithesis of Buddhist teachings. The episode is a reminder that no religion is exempt from perversion by sociopaths adept at twisting noble ideas and attracting followers to suit their own malevolent purposes.

Biden’s Approval Rating

Biden’s approval rating has dropped because of his lapses in planning the Afghanistan pullout. It may drop a point or two more because of the ISIS bombing yesterday that killed 13 of our troops and injured a lot more and many civilians as well.

If approval ratings were based on overall performance rather than what’s prominent in the news, Biden’s would be much higher, and if they were based on comparison with Trump or other prominent MAGA crowd-pandering Republican presidential aspirants, higher still.

The Supreme Court, the Law, and Ideology

I won’t attempt echo the assessments of distinguished legal experts set forth in major media outlets yesterday and today concerning the ruling, accompanied by an unsigned opinion, three justices dissenting, of the Supreme Court Tuesday night compelling the Biden administration to revive Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. A good example is the article in today’s Slate by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern under the heading “The Supreme Court has let a lone Trump judge take over Biden’s foreign policy.” The circumstances and history of this matter are complex and this is not the place for another account of them. I’ll simply say that this decision reveals unequivocally that all six “conservative” (i.e. right-wing) justices of the Supreme Court are driven not by their dedication to law and precedent, but by a deeply held, and in my view deeply perverse, ideology. It’s a decision that bodes ill for the future of American democracy.

Cryptocurrencies and Global Warming

Cryptocurrencies are quite the rage. I understand that they require a tremendous amount of energy. If there’s any reasonable hope of slowing global warming, carbon emissions should be taxed and carbon neutral initiatives should be subsidized, in each case in proportion to their cost or benefit to humanity. If such a policy were followed, I suspect that crypto currencies would fade away. Since such a policy is not likely to be followed, I suspect that they are here to stay.

The Most Deadly Virus

Last evening on his MSNBC news, commentary, and interview show, “All In,” Chris Hayes played a nightmare-inducing, in my case, clip showing Trump at his latest rally in which he fans the flames of hatred, ignorance, and bigotry among the delusion-driven members of his cult. This episode took place in Alabama, which is experiencing a horrifying Covid surge because of widespread vaccine reluctance. Trump said that people should get vaccinated, which elicited some gentle boos. Opposing vaccinations is a cardinal principal of Trump cult mythology. Trump realized his mistake and did his best to remedy it, reassuring the crowd: “You have your freedoms,” adding, in a sarcastic tone, “Take the vaccine. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be the first to know.” Trump continues to be a superspreader of the most deadly virus, the one that corrupts the human brain. It’s rampant in this nation. A lot of people –– including members of Congress, governors, and media figures –– engage in spreading it every day.

The Dalai Lama

Somehow, some years ago, I got on the list of people who see the Dalai Lama’s Facebook postings. I come across one every week or so. I find it instructive, inspiring, in fact, that although he is surely one of the world’s most prominent religious leaders, his teachings require no belief in the supernatural. Piety, ceremony, and faith are beside the point. A posting I read yesterday, began: “Please don’t think that compassion, love and tolerance only belong to religion. They belong to human life.”

Blotting Out Trump: A Correction

Yesterday, after reading yet more sickening accounts of the Administration’s monstrous botching of the Afghanistan pullout, I decided to reread my recent blogs on the subject and noticed something strange about my blog of August 16th, which concluded:

In an astute column in yesterday’s Washington Post, Max Boot reviewed the major blunders relating to Afghanistan made by each of Biden’s three predecessors: Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Barrack Obama, each of them appalling in their wrong-headedness, but none matching Biden’s thoughtlessness in the way he withdrew American forces without regard to the unacceptably disastrous consequences that would very likely ensue.

Checking what Mr. Boot actually wrote: –– “This was a disaster that was produced by four administrations, two Republican (George W. Bush, Donald Trump) and two Democratic (Barack Obama, Joe Biden) –– I realized that my brain inexplicably malfunctioned in blotting out Trump and, no less weird, installing Bill Clinton in his place.

Was that a Freudian slip? My unconscious desire to blot out Trump overcame rational thought?

When the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries were getting underway, I expressed the opinion that Biden was too old to be president. It may be that age was a factor in his blotting out critical facts in planning the withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan. Maybe I was right that he was too old for the job! Maybe, at 90, I’m too old to publish trustworthy blogs. I’ll leave it to readers to judge whether, whatever flaws may be visible from time to time, most of what I write makes sense.

Affordable Housing

The stalwart progressive Katrina vanden Heuval has pointed out that we have a gargantuan housing problem in the U. S. We have great numbers of people who are homeless, living in substandard housing, or for whom rent eats up an inordinate amount of their income. How do some countries deal with the housing problem? In Vienna, “two-thirds of people live in social housing –– housing built by the government where renters are charged ‘cost-rent’, or the cost of building and maintaining their units.” We could offer options like this in our country, and we would if it weren’t for powerful rich people for whom every measure for the common good is decried as rank socialism, a menace that threatens liberty, decency, and virtue of every man, woman, and child in our great land.

Biden

Like a lot of people, I’ve been critical of how Biden handled the pullout from Afghanistan. He blundered badly in failing to evacuate and grant asylum in timely fashion to people likely to be targeted by the Taliban. Republicans have been having a field day claiming that this episode is proof of Biden’s unfitness to be president.

The facts are that someone else might have made a better president, but Biden is generally very capable and he is a good and decent man, whereas the leading Republican candidates to run for president in 2024 have deomonstated their willingness to trash American democracy and substitute lies for truth. Our country is vastly better off with Biden as president than it would be with Trump or anyone who shares or tolerates Trump’s values and attitude.

Doesn’t Biden Get It Yet?

Headline: “U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan until all Americans leave, Biden says.”

Biden should have said, “U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan until, among all those who wish to leave the country, all Americans, all those of whatever nationality who aided American forces, and all others who face reprisals from the Taliban have been given the opportunity to leave the country and enabled to find safe haven in the United States or elsewhere.”

Biden’s Blunder and the 2022 Elections

Regardless of whether one thinks Biden was right or wrong in pulling troops out of Afghanistan, his execution of that decision was irrefutably awful. It may turn out to be the political gift Republicans needed to gain control of Congress in 2022, enabling them to weaken democratic institutions sufficiently to gain longterm one-party rule, which would be a signigicantly worse tragedy in the course of world history than the Taliban’s triumph in Afghanistan.

Biden and Afghanistan

Perhaps belatedly understanding the magnitude of his error in failing to ensure the safe exodus of people who have aided the United States before he drew down our armed forces in Afghanistan, Biden has dispatched enough troops to secure the Kabul airport for a limited length of time. This should permit more people who are targeted for death or brutal persecution by the Taliban to find asylum in the United States or elsewhere. In his speech yesterday, Biden said that he was persuaded not to evacuate these people before drawing down troops in part because the Afghan leadership warned that it would be bad for morale and in part because some people were reluctant to leave. Neither of these reasons is in the least convincing. I think Biden was gripped by an idée fixe, an overwhelming impulse to end the war and bring our troops home that crowded other thoughts out of his mind. I think of him as a good, and in many respects capable, man who has often exhibited flawed judgment.

Afghanistan

The rapid-fire fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban yesterday was the most sickening news development since the election of Trump to the presidency, which in turn was the most sickening news development since 9/11 and the “preventative war” against Iraq that followed it.

The baleful ramifications of Biden’s miscalculation regarding Afghanistan may embolden propagandistic disinformation machines: Biden lied to us about Afghanistan; what makes you think he isn’t lying to us about vaccines, or about claiming that he didn’t steal the election. Loss of faith in Biden’s judgment could be the tipping point that enables Republicans to take control of Congress in 2022, which in turn could lead to the conversion of our country from a democracy to authoritarian rule.

In an astute column in yesterday’s Washington Post, Max Boot reviewed the major blunders relating to Afghanistan made by each of Biden’s three predecessors: Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Barrack Obama, each of them appalling in their wrong-headedness, but none matching Biden’s thoughtlessness in the way he withdrew American forces without regard to the unacceptably disastrous consequences that would very likely ensue.

Correction: The above blog contains an inexplicable error, which I comment on in my blog of August 22.

Global Warming; Notes from the Field

Headline: “British Columbia battles 300 wildfires at once.” I used to think of Washington and Oregon as being cool and wet in the summer compared to most of the country. I knew that a current of arctic origin flows south along the Pacific Coast, causing ocean water in the vicinity of San Francisco to be considerably colder than off beaches at comparable latitudes on the east coast. I assumed that British Columbia, which lies north of Washington State, would be even more reliably cool and wet. This summer will be remembered for floods and fires, and so may most of the next ones.

The United States Needs a Much More Progressive Tax System

I read some months ago that the new federal stimulus law that temporarily increased the child tax credit had cut child poverty in half. The cost of this was quite large, but very much smaller than the amount of revenue that could be raised by making our tax system only moderately more progressive.

Rich people would be happier if their mindsets were such that they gained greater satisfaction knowing that they had contributed to the elimination of child poverty (giving every child access to a nourishing diet, health care, and educational opportunity) rather than further increasing their wealth and material possessions.

The House Select Committee’s Task

As Jennifer Rubin pointed out in one of her Washington Post columns yesterday, the scope of the House select committee’s investigation of the January 6th Insurrection has been expanded to include the plot to overturn the 2020 election and keep Trump in the White House. The two are intertwined, the Insurrection being a last ditch effort after all other illegal methods for keeping Trump in power had failed.

Trump Must Be Criminally Prosecuted

In our legal system, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and Trump deserves that presumption just as much as anyone else. But the evidence against him, including his own words and actions, in plotting to nullify the election and inciting the January 6 Insurrection is in plain sight. The evidence is so manifest, so overwhelming, that it would be a monumental affront to justice to let him escape prosecution.

The only reason for the Justice Department not to prosecute Trump is the risk that large numbers of his ideologically driven supporters –– many of them heavily armed –– would resort to violence in an effort to derail the workings of justice. It’s all but certain that Trump would encourage them to do so.

To refrain from prosecuting Trump out of fear would be to abandon the principle that no one is above the law and would invite further attempts to replace American democracy with authoritarian rule. Remember: Our country is the land of the free and the home of the brave. No one, least of all the attorney general of the United States, should be intimidated by a bunch of thugs.

Saying a Lot with Few Words

U Cal Berkeley Professor Robert Reich is a master of social and economic statistics, and a master at juxtaposing them to make a powerful powerful point. Few words are needed, as, for example, in his recent Facebook posting; “I will never be satisfied with a system that enables 713 billionaires to add 1.8 trillion dollars to their wealth in 16 months, but doesn’t raise the $7.25 minimum wage for 12 years.” A single sentence is all that’s needed to cast a glaring light on the extreme income and wealth inequality in our country.

The Challenge That Must Be Met

Goaded, bullied, and encouraged by Trump, all but a few Republicans assented to, and in many cases abetted, his attempt to overturn the election and perpetuate his presidency in classic authoritarian style. As Jennifer Rubin has written, “Quite plainly, with a House majority in hand, the GOP in 2024 could run a more sophisticated rerun of Jan 6 to install a MAGA president — regardless of the voting outcome.” This is the prime challenge our country faces. We can only hope, and work, to meet it.

Ignorance, Resentment, Megalomania, Greed, and Democracy

A lot Trump supporters believe the phony arguments about how the election was stolen. A lot of seditious-prone individuals think that they are like heroes of the American Revolution. A lot of them can’t grasp the distinction between the noble principles that guided George Washington and the megalomaniacal sense of entitlement that guides Donald Trump.

The result of this tragic state of mass ignorance, coupled with stoked-up resentment, coupled with the shameless opportunism and power hunger of Republicans in positions of power and their super rich backers and media allies is a state of affairs in which, as Jennifer Rubin wrote the other day, “Republicans are the immediate threat to our democracy.”

If we survive this immediate threat, Rubin says, “the longer-term problem of civic illiteracy remains. If Democrats do not champion American democratic values, Republicans will continue to trample them.”

Climate Change –– Notes from the Field

This particular apocalypse is happening in slow motion, though in faster slow motion than expected. It’s a bit unsettling to see that our local weather forecast for the last two days hasn’t been something like “fair and warmer” or “likely showers,” but simply “smoke.”

The smoke here mostly comes from fires burning in west coast states, on average roughly a thousand miles away from us. The forecast may be “smoke” for sizable areas of the country for the next month or more. This morning a nearby ridge looked like it was veiled by gauze. I’m guessing that the health effects of breathing outside are similar those from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Closer to the fires, two packs. At least most people don’t do that anymore.

The Republicans’s Plan To Steal the 2024 Presidential Election

Of course, they may not need to steal it. Their candidate might prevail by getting the most electoral votes in a reasonably fair election. But fueled by extreme right-wing super rich mega donors, and under color of processes that are nominally legal, Republicans plan to have their candidate installed as president even if they lose the electoral college vote, which is how our presidential elections are supposed to be decided, rather than by the popular vote, even though elections are thereby tilted in favor of Republicans.

In Chris Hayes’s MSNBC news and commentary show last evening, Hayes and his guest, a specialist in election law, laid out how this could happen. That such a thing is possible has largely to do with the byzantine interplay of federal and state constitutions and laws in America’s patchwork federal system and is too complex to describe here, but the threat is real. It’s far from certain that American democracy will survive through 2025.

Trump Should Be Held To Account, Continued

In a Washington Post opinion piece yesterday, Laurence Tribe and two other distinguished law professors, Joyce White Vance and Barbara McQuade, urged the Justice Department to initiate, if it hasn’t already done so, a criminal investigation of the “former president’s dangerous course of conduct.”

Some observers have expressed fear that Attorney General Merrick Garland has been holding back from investigating the former president because he is fixated on appearing to be nonpartisan. The authors of this piece make clear that the danger of giving a pass to presidents whose criminal behavior undermines and threatens our national stability and democratic form of government would encourage a repeat of such behavior. Let’s hope Garland won’t be deterred by anticipation of the howls, accusations, and vicious slurs certain to issue forth from the Trump cult, if Garland refuses to indulge Trump’s fantasy that he is above the law.

Trump Should Be Held To Account

Trump should be criminally prosecuted in a number of jurisdictions on a number of grounds. Whether that will happen is doubtful. In any case, as Robert Reich points out, Trump should be barred from holding office under section 3 of the 14th amendment to the Constitution on the ground that he “engaged in an insurrection” against the United States. Reich says that Attorney General Merrick Garland should issue an advisory opinion clearly stating this. There is a plethora of evidence incriminating Trump on this score, most recently the revelation that on December 27th he called the acting attorney general and told him: “Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me.”

The Badly Weakened Infrastructure Bill

If, as is possible, the roughly one trillion dollar infrastructure bill passes, it will be celebrated as a great triumph of bipartisan achievement. In actuality it’s a travesty of that. As Katrina vanden Hueval pointed out in a column in yesterday’s Washington Post, Republicans succeeded in excising critically important provisions: “funding for research and development, for U.S. manufacturing, for public housing, schools and child-care centers, for home and community-based care, . . .for clean-energy tax credits,{and it cut} proposed funding for public transit by half, for electric vehicles by 90 percent and for broadband by a third.”

Not all Democratic senators, much less any Republicans, understand that evading or eliminating the filibuster is critical to the viability of our country and American democracy.

The Plotters

Three-quarters of a century ago, home-grown demagogues, most notably Senator Joe McCarthy, raised a hue and cry that Soviet agents and American communists were plotting to turn the United States into a communist nation. The danger of that happening was between negligible and nonexistent. Today, as described by the investigative reporter Jane Mayer, in The New Yorker, some extremely rich people are plotting to convert American democracy into a Putin-style, oligarch-friendly, authoritarian form of government. This time, given the movement’s support by the majority of members of the Republican party, insidiously powerful and effective elements in the right-wing media, and widespread susceptibility to contemporary techniques of disseminating and replicating destructive propaganda, the danger is between substantial and critical.

Free and Fair Elections Are Critical to Preserving Democracy

Amazingly, there seems to be a chance –– only a chance, but a fairly good one –- that a bipartisan infrastructure bill will be passed: Enough Republicans realize that upgrading our infrastructure is critically important. The trouble is that no Republican senators are willing to support federal legislation to counter new laws in Republican-controlled key states that are designed to tilt elections in favor of Republican candidates. Ensuring free and fair elections is the most important issue facing our country. Every Democratic senator must understand this principle, and be willing to put all other considerations aside to ensure that effective federal voting rights legislation is enacted.

Republican Strategy

The strategy of the vast majority of Republican office holders and their media confederates is evident from their behavior. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently explained, their denial of scientific truths, their baseless attacks on experts even though they result in more deaths from the coronavirus, their vicious attacks on elements of the media that don’t support their false narratives, and their continuing promotion of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen are “all attempts to exhaust the public’s trust and capacity for rational judgment.”

No One in a Democracy Is above the Law

News Item: “The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J.Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday.”

Vladimir Putin is above the law. Xi Jinping is above the law. Trump wants desperately to be above the law. Thankfully, it looks
increasingly likely that this won’t happen.

Fair and Balanced Reporting

I hope that Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who wrote about the matter yesterday, stirred some journalists into giving more thought to what fair and balanced reporting requires: For example, it does not require –– it does not permit –– saying, “{A named politician} says that there are real concerns about fraud in the 2020 elections that need to be investigated.” Since the record is clear that all such concerns are baselessly fabricated and bear no relation to the truth, the statement is not worth reporting, or if it is reported, being fair and balanced requires stating that the statement is false. The news involved is not that there may be a genuine issue as to fraud, as the statement suggests, it’s that a particular politician chose to make a false statement. A fair and balanced report of this event would place it in the context of Republicans’s concerted attempts to mislead the public.

The Spirit of the Republican Party

Chris Hayes has tried to pinpoint the spirit of the Republican Party: it’s cruelty. He showed some clips to back up this assertion, including one that showed a right-wing media persnality savagely criticizing Simone Biles for dropping out of the Olympics: she was weak; she let America down; etc. I suspect that this character feels inadequate to the core. Criticizing someone who is a great athlete and a lovely sensitive human being is his way of trying to prop up his battered ego. He likely has a population of regular listeners who are as mean-spirited as he is. Trump epitomizes this malevolent strain of personality and cultivated it in others. People like that can’t feel shame, an emotion that never seeps into the narcissistic bubble they inhabit and are helpless to escape.

Is this really the spirit of the Republican Party? Maybe it’s not, but it’s certainly pervasive among a lot of Republican office holders, media people, and their supporters.

Notes from Surreal Land, continued

Yesterday, the Justice Department, led by attorney general Merrick Garland, took a stand in defense of the real. In its brief filed in federal court, the Department stated that it “cannot conclude that {Republican Congressman Mo} Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment as a Member of Congress at the time of the incident out of which the claims in this case arose,” and that “inciting or conspiring to foment a violent attack on the United States Congress is not within the scope of employment of a Representative—or any federal employee.”

Brooks’s claim to the contrary was surreal. That there was any doubt that it would be rejected was surreal. It’s astonishing enough that Garland’s phrasing of the Department’s statement –– “we cannot conclude that . . . “ sounded as if he had tried to agree with Brroks’s argument, but just couldn’t do it. Another, no less honorable, attorney general might have treated it with scorching contempt, which is what it deserved. But that’s not Garland’s way, which may be just as well. It’s not a bad philosophy to cast as much light with as little heat as possible.

Notes from Surreal Land

Jennifer Rubin reported that today, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, “the Justice Department and the House of Representatives will file briefs explaining to a federal court whether each believes that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly incited the violent attack on the Capitol and sought to subvert the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6.”

This is more surreal than any of the surreal events I’ve yet commented on. That anyone could question whether such activity could be within the scope of “official duties” is both bizarre in the extreme and very disturbing. If I find out what happened in this matter, I’ll report on it tomorrow.

Protecting Voting Rights

In a thoroughgoing review yesterday of President Biden’s remarks concerning the necessity of federal legislation to protect voting rights against the assaults mounted in key states controlled by Republicans, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin rightly dismissed anyone’s hopes that support could be found on the part of ten Republican senators, which is what would be required if the filibuster rule is allowed to remain intact. She warned against imagining that “passing a big economic agenda, coupled with super-duper organizing, is enough for Democrats to keep the House and Senate in 2022,” and that to rely on such a strategy is to take “an enormous risk and disregards the potential of Republicans attempting to overturn election results.” American democracy remains in deep peril.

Extreme Income and Wealth Inequality

It’s a bad sign that income and wealth inequality have become increasingly extreme in our country. In one of his recent Facebook posts, Robert Reich noted that the net worth of the richest 1% of the population is $41.52 trillion and the net worth of least rich 50% is $2.62 trillion. Imagine that the total amount of wealth in our country were the same as it is now, but our tax and subsidy system and social policies had been such that the richest 1% had only $38.9 trillion instead of $41.52 trillion and the least rich had $5.24 trillion instead of $2.62 trillion. The wealth of the least rich 50% would have doubled, making a huge difference in their lives, and the wealth of the richest 1% would have been reduced by an amount that would in no case result in more than a minor, albeit for many of them annoying, inconvenience. Our society would be healthier for it.

Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance

Tax avoidance is taking advantage of provisions in the tax law that enable one to legally pay lower taxes. Tax evasion is criminal violation of provisions in the tax law, resulting in lower taxes being paid than should be. At the behest of rich donors to their political campaigns, politicians holding office (mostly Republicans) have succeeded in weaving many provisions into the Internal Revenue Code that provide their supporters with numerous avenues for tax avoidance. That’s what people like Senator Elizabeth Warren are talking about when they say the system is “rigged.”

Republicans in Congress evidently think that the system isn’t rigged enough. Of course they would never advocate tax evasion, as distinguished from tax avoidance, but they strenuously oppose providing the Internal Revenue Service with sufficient funds to adequately enforce the tax laws, even though it’s incontrovertible that doing so would discourage tax evasion and would bring a high return on investment that would materially help finance government expenditures and reduce the government’s annual deficit.

A Salute to Nancy Pelosi

Republican politicians and propagandists revile Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi because she is such an intelligent, decent, and effective leader. I watched her on television yesterday making the case for a thorough investigation of the January 6th insurrection and attempt to overturn the election of Joe Biden as president. She spoke plainly, truthfully, and rationally, without rancor, rhetorical flourish, or partisan heat. The contrast between her and bombastic, duplicitous, mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing, grandstanding of dishonorable characters like Republican Senate Minority Leader Kevin Minority or the Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson –– and I regret to say those two could be just the beginning of a long list of prominent Trumpian type Republicans –– couldn’t be more clear.

We Can Run from Global Warming But We Can’t Escape

A few weeks ago, when it was really really hot in southwestern Colorado, even at 6,600’ elevation, where I live, I thought, Where would be a good place to move to, at least theoretically? I settled on Montana, near the Canadian border, about 12 degrees of latitude farther north and near Glacier National Park. That sounded cool. That was then, but now we’re getting showers here and tolerable summer temperatures, but it’s been in the high nineties in northern Montana. Cross that off the list. On TV last evening I saw that visibility in the New York City area was markedly reduced by smoke. An animated map showed it mostly came from Manitoba or thereabouts. Meanwhile, our government is struggling to deal with imperatives and crises. I’m in awe of all the good people trying to right wrongs and make the world a better place, but so many people are cynical or nihilistic or self-obsessed –– I could name a couple of dozen public figures without taking a breath. It’s a huge challenge trying to save American democracy, much less the planet, and no, Mr. Bezos, we can’t escape into space.

Biden after Six Months

In a Washington Post column well worth reading this morning, Jennifer Rubin provides a clear-headed commentary on Biden’s performance during his first six months in office. It’s been generally excellent, though not free of lapses and serious concerns. We have been spared the horror of a second Trump term in office, but his malevolent spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of all but a handful of Republicans, whose control of key state governments, coupled with the perverseness of key members of Congress, bodes ill for the land.

Trump’s Pinch Hitter

At a recent meeting of C-Pac, the primary doctrinal testing ground and core ideological tuning component of the Republican Party, the overwhelming favorite for a pinch hitter if (God forbid) the party’s 2024 presidential nominee has to be someone other than the sociopathic former president was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. No wonder! DeSantis has displayed insuperable credentials as a Trump-class crude and irredeemably unprincipled demagogue by such behavior as offering in his campaign fundraising operation merchandise emblazoned with the slogan “Don’t Fauci My Florida.”

Gaining Perspective

It must have been a heady experience for billionaire Richard Branson, flying to “the edge of space,” and probably will be for superbillionaire Jeff Bezos, who is expected to get even higher this week. Branson says he would like it if everyone in the world could fly into space. Robert Reich says, “Can we please start with everyone having access to health care?” I think the problem is that getting very rich tends to distort one’s thinking, like being on drugs. You can lose perspective, and you can’t regain it by looking down from 55 miles up in the extremely thin air.

Truth, Justice, and Republicans

Back in radio days, there was a popular crime series titled “Mr. District Attorney.” As I remember, the program began with the title character promising, in ringing tones, to uphold “truth, justice, and the American Way.” If Republicans succeed in their efforts to so warp our electoral processes that they can achieve long-term, one-party, authoritarian rule, the district attorney would have to decide whether to fight for truth and justice or the American way, which would have become the GOP’s way, described recently by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin as “horrifying in its contempt for truth, disdain for democracy and embrace of racism.”

The Gathering Storm, Continued

If, as appears likely, Democrats are unable to pass federal legislation to contravene laws enacted in Republican-controlled states designed to undermine voting rights and integrity of elections, can Democrats rely on the courts to protect such blatant assaults on basic constitutional rights? One would think so, but it doesn’t look likely. In an interview with Chris Hayes, former attorney general Eric Holder, speaking of the Supreme Court, commented,“I think we need to be very worried about this court. They have demonstrated an ideological distaste for protecting the right to vote.”

The Gathering Storm

The heading for my blog today is the title of Volume One of Winston Churchill’s six-volume history of World War II. It’s also an apt title to describe the present political situation in the United States. In a searing column that appeared in last evening’s online Washington Post, Paul Waldman recounted a conversation he had with Yale historian Timothy Snyder, an expert on how authoritarian factions have toppled democracies. Snyder noted that the January 6th insurrection was a failed coup, and that “a failed coup is practice for a successful coup.” The evidence is overwhelming that Republicans are gearing up to take power in 2024 even if they lose the election. They’re setting the stage for it. They control the governments of critical swing states, and they have the power to enact laws that have the effect of controlling election outcomes. They’re doing just that, and they’ll get away with it unless they’re blocked by federal legislation to protect voting rights. As of this writing, it doesn’t look likely that Democrats can get any such legislation passed by the senate. The storm clouds are gathering in our country. They are growing darker and drawing closer.

Election Rigging and Its Consequences

Washington Post opinion column headline this morning: “Democrats will lose if they don’t prevent the rigging of our elections.”
    This might just as well have read: “Democracy will lose if Democrats can’t prevent the rigging of our elections.”
    Or, more to the point: “Democracy will be lost if Democrats can’t prevent the rigging of our elections.” This is evident, because, if Republicans are able to gain control of the federal government by rigging elections, they will use that power to rig them even more decisively in the future.

The Effects of Drought and Heat in the West

News Item: ” As of Monday, 59 large fires have burned 863,976 acres across the country this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.”

One of the pleasures of living in Colorado is looking at the landscape. A short walk from our house brings into view a cluster of mountains that rise well above the timber line. They’re between about ten and thirty miles distant, but are sharply defined and decked with snow most of the year. Since we returned here from travels ten days ago, the mountains appear as if seen through a thin layer of gauze. Throughout western United States, this summer, visibility is reduced by the countless smoke particles in the air. I’ve seen a video simulation of how smoke drifts downwind from fires. Sometimes I can smell the smoke; sometimes not.

Spacey Competition

There was quite a hoopla yesterday when billionaire Richard Branson and some others flew in a special plane that went as high as 53 miles above sea level, to “the edge of space.” That compares with the paltry six or seven miles above sea level most of us have ever gone riding in commercial jets. Branson accomplished this feat nine days ahead of when billionaire Jeff Bezos expects to fly to “the edge of space” in his special plane. You might think that therefore Branson won this important competition, but don’t be so sure! Officials at Bezos’s company claim that “the edge of space” only begins 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, and that Bezos’s special plane will get that far, but Branson’s didn’t. To put it all in perspective: The first people to reach the moon got there over fifty years ago, and the moon is about 239,938 miles farther above sea level than either Branson or Bezos are going. I’m reminded of the limerick, “You can tell the men from the boys by the price of their toys.”

Robert Draper: To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq

This would be at the top of my list of books all policy makers should read, a lucid account of one of the most notable American tragedies in a long succession of them. I remember in the months after 9/11 shuddering upon hearing about the need for a “preventive war,” how our military could produce “shock and awe,” the desirability of torturing prisoners, and the “mission accomplished.” Today, our country is locked in internal confrontations, confrontations with other nations, and confrontations with nature. What tragedies lie ahead?

American Democracy and the Political Reality

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman laid out the political reality: (i) By 2022, Republican-controlled legislatures in key states will have enacted laws that will make it much harder for Democrats to win elections; (ii) With the help of two complicit Democratic senators, Republicans have blocked passage of federal legislation that would protect voting rights; and (iii) a solid majority of ideologically driven justices of the Supreme Court have demonstrated that they won’t invalidate state-enacted laws relating to the electoral process. As a result, Democrats will have to make prodigious efforts to have a chance of stopping Republicans from taking control of Congress in 2022 and the presidency in 2024. If Democrats fail to win this uphill battle, Republicans will likely be able to rig the system even more tightly in their favor and achieve long-term one-party minority rule, thereby supplanting American democracy with an authoritarian form of government.

Afghan Translators

Afghan translators and their families and others who helped U.S. forces are slated for death at the hands of the Taliban. Biden has promised to protect them and welcome them to the U.S. The idea is to fly them to Guam for processing and grant them asylum here. But will the U.S. be able to make good on this promise? I read that 90% of U.S. forces have already been withdrawn. Just as an honorable captain of a sinking ship doesn’t leave it until all the passengers and crew are in the lifeboats, so U.S. forces shouldn’t leave Afghanistan until all Afghans who aided us are on their way to a safe haven.

The Competition with China

America is locked in competition with China, which threatens to surpass us economically, technologically, and militarily. China has a tightly controlled authoritarian form of government. The U.S. has a semi-functional semi-democratic form of government. In the U.S. liberty is the primary value. In China, submission to its ruler is the primary value. Some Republicans are suggesting that to prevail over China, the U.S. must be governed the way China is. They don’t seem to realize that becoming like China is losing to China.

Notes from Surreal Land

Washington Post columnist Max Boot reports that “86 percent of Democrats have gotten at least one vaccine shot, compared with only 45 percent of Republicans,” and that “47% of Republicans say they likely won’t get vaccinated, compared with only 6 percent of Democrats.”

It’s one thing for Republicans to promulgate the massive false narrative that the election was stolen –– it’s malevolent, but at least it’s rational, because it’s necessary to achieving their goal of transforming America from a constitutional democracy to one-party authoritarian rule –– but it’s another thing to promulgate a massive false narrative that is certain to result in many more Republicans getting sick and dying of Covid-19 than Democrats. That’s both malevolent and irrational.

Six Months after the Insurrection

Six months after the January 6th insurrection, American democracy is like a prizefighter reeling from a telling blow, struggling to shake off brain fog and stay upright. All but a handful of Republicans have subscribed to a false narrative about the election and the insurrection. Let’s hope that the select committee constituted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will shine a bright light on the facts and that American democracy will still be standing at the end of the round. We have entered the age in which one of our two major political parties has renounced the American compact and seeks to convert our government to one-party authoritarian rule.

Road Report

Sara and I returned to Durango, Colorado, yesterday after driving six days from eastern Long Island, visiting relatives along the way. Notable were the tremendous numbers of trucks on the highways, the haze that hangs over much of the landscape, and, in Colorado, the destruction of spruce forests by beetles that flourish in the warmer dryer conditions. My most vivid visual memory, formed in eastern Colorado, fifty miles east of where the Rocky Mountains begin to loom through the haze to the west, is of a gently rising grassy green slope culminating in a distant ridge graced with power-generating windmills with immense, slowly turning, arms. Later we pass some, close by on either side. I think they are beautiful and wonder whether my esthetic judgment is affected by associating them with efforts to slow global warming.

Blog Break

Tavelling for a few days –– driving west to Colorado. This blog will resume on July 5.

A General Feeling of Disquietude, continued.

Also contributing to my feeling of disquietude is the high percentage of Americans who are inlined to follow an authoritarian figure and reject democratic values, more so, apparently, than in other Western democracies. This tendency is linked to the powerful influence of America’s version of evangelical Christianity, aspects of which are strikingly antithetical to Jesus’s teachings. Submitting to a higher authority is an easy path for some people to take, so that even if means being loyal to someone like Trump, it’s justifiable, a perversion of the idea that God works his will in mysterious ways.

A General Feeling of Disquietude

That’s what I have, and am trying to figure out what’s causing it. I selected the following: the fact that a substantial percentage of Americans are people driven by resentment, are receptive to propaganda and conspiracy theories, have no sense of caring about the common good, and are so numerous that unprincipled politicians and media personnel pander to them, encourage their fantastical thinking, and court their money and their votes; that democracy is being beaten into insensibility, in China and Russia, of course, but is on the ropes even in India, Brazil, and elsewhere, and is at grave peril in our own beleaguered country; the fact that the most reliably cool part of the United States, the Pacific Northwest, is experiencing temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, in some places in excess of 110, providing the clearest sign I’ve seen yet that humanity is headed toward self-extinction. I’m sure there are other elements of my general feeling of disquietude, but I’ve yet to pin them down. I must reflect some more.

The U.S. Intelligence Report about UFOs

U.S. Intelligence released a report on UFOs (now called unidentified aerial objects) after studying numerous sightings of them over the past few years, mostly apparently by Navy pilots. Some sightings have been confirmed to be optical illusions; some may be more in the nature of pranks; others maybe something else. Among the something else categories are craft sent by advanced alien civilizations based elsewhere in the galaxy. If so, so far, at least, they haven’t harmed any Earthlings, and the right attitude toward them, I maintain, is to let them have their fun,

Why Republicans Resort to Promoting Lies and Voter Suppression

Sometimes one comes across a brief observation that has great explanatory power. This happened to me yesterday when I read this one by someone named Tressis McMillan Cotton: “An intellectually impotent ideology and party –– when it cannot win, it will cheat.”

Investigating the Jan. 6th Insurrection

Republicans shamefully blocked establishment of an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6th Insurrection, including Trump’s role in inciting it. Attorney General Merrick Garland, concerned about appearing to be politically motivated, shied away from initiating a Justice Department investigation. Accordingly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that the House will form a select committee to conduct such an investigation, breathing life into our imperiled democracy.

“Merrick Garland is the wrong man for the job.”

This is the heading of one of Jennifer Rubin’s online Washington Post columns yesterday. It reflects a highly important unfortunate situation: No one was more qualified to be attorney general of the United States than Merrick Garland. After witnessing the subjugation of the Justice Department to the self-serving will of the sociopathic former president, and how the Department became sullied by corruption, bad faith, politicization, and unethical conduct on the part of Trump DOJ appointees and complicit subordinates, Garland resolved that not only would he adhere to the highest standards of conduct, but that he would make every effort to avoid any taint of politicalization, a stance that bespeaks his impeccable character and professionalism, but amounts to sweeping under the rug gross wrongdoings during the Trump administration, which, if the health of our democracy is to be restored, must be brought to light. 

The Tilted Political Playing Field

Republican-controlled state governments have instituted laws and procedures that will have the effect of tilting elections in favor of Republican candidates. Republican senators have succeeded in blocking passage of federal legislation that would contravene these brazenly antidemocratic authoritarian-inspired measures. As a result, the federal elections playing field has become tilted in favor of Republicans. Democrats are substantially less likely to be victorious in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Trump is fading away, but so is American democracy.

Will Attorney General Merrick Garland Do the Most Important Part of His Job?

A full and unflinching investigation of egregious instances of the politicalization of the Justice Department during the Trump years is one of the requisites to restoring the health of our democracy. Merrick Garland, the superbly qualified new Attorney General, seems to be shying away from any action, whether justified or nor, that would give Republicans and right-wing media talking points for accusing him of waging a campaign of retribution against Trump appointees. If Garland has elevated bipartisanship and collegiality above the interests of justice and the preservation of our democracy, it’s lamentable. As Jennifer Rubin wrote in one of her Washington Post columns yesterday, “Refusing to learn about the events of the past four years amounts to endorsement of their misdeeds. We cannot restore the {Department of Justice} to its former stature by giving miscreants a pass.”

Happy Summer Solstice

The solstice may seem like an inadequate excuse to be happy, but any port in a storm, I say.

I notice this blog has been less “daily” lately. That’s because I’m visiting family and have been drawn into an unaccustomed whirlwind of activity, leaving little space in my head for contemplation of public and international affairs; not that a lot doesn’t weigh on my mind, for example, will most of the country west of the continental divide be smoky all summer?

The Power Player and the Compromiser

Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the senate, who is the most powerful Republican politician not counting the ghost of Donald Trump, is determined to block every piece of legislation the Biden administration advances, regardless of whether doing so would be good for our country or not. That’s because McConnell doesn’t care a whit about our country. He only cares about gaining and solidifying power. Nearly all his Republican colleagues follow his lead. After rejecting his own party’s position on voting rights legislation, Democratic senator Joe Manchin, a great believer in bipartisanship, advanced a compromise and persuaded some Republican senators to endorse it. Predictably, McConnell rejected it. Attempting to reach a bipartisan consensus would contravene his basic credo: Block everything Democrats want.

Will Manchin learn from this the limits of “bipartisanship?
My guess is that he will, but pretend he hasn’t.

The Most Important News Every Day

The media reports the current events daily, but far more important than the latest news, whatever it may be, is the old news, evidence for which keeps piling up, that with near unanimity Republicans have decided that they can’t gain control of the federal government through democratic processes and that their only hope for gaining and retaining power is to use every means possible to turn American democracy into one-party authoritarian government, a goal they are tirelessly working to achieve. It’s news that, given its importance, warrants a large-type, bold-faced banner headline every single day.

Summer Reading

I’m traveling and Sara and I are hanging out for most of June near the beach on the east end of Long Island. it’s hard to hard to work on the science fiction novel I’m writing in these circumstances, so I’m taking a break for “summer reading.” A book that’s sat on the edge of my consciousness for many decades is Jack Kerouak’s “On the Road,” written in the time of the hippies, the 1960s, I think. I got a copy, expecting just to read a bit of it to satisfy my curiosity and am finding it very engaging. Kerouak doesn’t bother much with paragraphing, much less division into chapters –– his narration just flows along. The events described are mundane, the characters unremarkable, but the book evokes life as it’s lived by a lot of people, a series of things that, with variations, keep happening day after day and what your reaction is to them, when you have a reaction rather than just having them wash over you. I’ve grown to think that being sensitive and attuned to and observing nature is important, so I’m rereading Annie Dillard’s” A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” She lived alone for a while in a cabin near a water course of that name in the mountainous part of Virginia. She’s an observer par excellence and a very good writer to boot. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for general non fiction the year it was published, about four or five decades ago. Next up, one just published: mathematician Joran Ellenberg’s “Shape –– The Hidden Geometry that’s the Basis of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.” Intriguing!

End Destitution in the United States

I favor medicare for all and for having the U.S. government pay everybody enough monthly income so that, if that is your only income and even if you have little or no assets, you’ll still be able to eat enough to stay nourished and have shelter from the elements –– enough so that many may still be very poor, no one will be left destitute. This program can be financed by a much more progressive and effective tax system, including closing tax loopholes and rigorously enforcing laws relating to collection of taxes.

It is said that in such a society, a large percentage of people would take the money and sit around and contribute nothing to society rather than work. This would not be the case, because this minimum income would be like social security income. Any income anyone can make from work would be added to it rather than substituted for it. Only an insignificant percentage of people would choose to be indolent and remain in impoverished circumstances rather than work and achieve greater economic flexibility. Such people are almost invariably incapable for one reason or another of contributing to society in any case.

It is also said that those who can contribute a lot to society would lose incentive to work and be creative if they had to pay significantly more in taxes. This not the case: Truly creative and productive people are ones who are motivated by inner drive to be creative and productive. They don’t yearn to do nothing but slouch around in comfortable circumstances just because they can’t get much richer anymore than impoverished people yearn to slouch around in shabby circumstances just because they won’t go to bed cold and hungry.

Unfortunately, it would take considerable enlightenment on the part of the public and policy makers –– a revolution of desires –– for such a transformation of our society to be achieved.

The Super Rich and the System

In her New York Times column today, Maureen Dowd rightly rails over the extent to which the super rich avoid taxes. They get away with it thanks to politicians whose political campaigns they finance and provisions in the Internal Revenue Code drafted by lobbyists they hire. It’s disgusting, and the same can be said about those who are content to perpetuate it.

Legend on a Bumper Sticker: Just Be Nice

You can’t distill all the wisdom in the world into
three words, but this is a good try.

Trends

News Item: “Water levels {in Lake Mead} have fallen140 feet since 2000, leaving the reservoir 36 percent full.”

Headline: “Record heat forecast in the Southwest next week, and worsening drought.”

Cmmentary: “The billionaires got a lot richer during the pandemic.”

Editorial Heading: “The Myanmar military government imprisoned 50 journalists — including two Americans.” 

Tax Policy

Columnist’s Headline: “Think twice before changing the tax rules to soak billionaires”

Right. Better yet, think eight or nine times. The Internal Revenue Code is enormously complicated. Impulsively enacted changes can cause deleterious unintended consequences. But that doesn’t mean that the U.S. doesn’t need a much more progressive tax structure. A special commission composed of honorable experts should be appointed to study how the Code should be revised and what supporting measures should be enacted to efficiently and fairly raise revenue and reverse the trend toward ever greater income inequality.

There’s not the faintest reason to have the faintest hope that such a thing can happen.

Democrats Should Concentrate on Winning Elections

Democratic senator Joe Manchin is firmly on record that he prefers to be “bipartisan” than oppose Republicans’s efforts to manipulate electoral processes as a means of gaining control of the federal government. In a Washington Post column yesterday, Jennifer Rubin sensibly advises Democrats that it would be both futile and counterproductive to admonish Manchin. Concentrate on winning elections, she says. Win enough of them and you can gain control by a sufficient margin so you’re not dependent on unreliable fellow Democrats. Unfortunately, because of structural reasons, for example Wyoming having the same number of senators as California, which has a vastly greater number of citizens, gerrymandering, voter suppression laws, and other anti-Democratic mechanisms, to win elections in some key states Democrats will have to attract substantially more voters who favor Democratic candidates than Republican candidates.

Is American Democracy on the Way Out?

Robert Reich, who has a long and distinguished record in academia and public service, lays out the dark truth: America is on course to transition from a Constitutional democracy to one-party authoritarian rule. Referring to the Democratic senators who are so intent on exhibiting their “independence” that they are willing, as Lincoln put it, to “meanly lose . . . the last best hope on earth,” Professor Reich wrote yesterday, “Make no mistake: By refusing to end the filibuster, Manchin and Sinema are giving Republicans the green light to cheat their way to victory in 2022, 2024, and every election thereafter.”

Shrinking Lakes

Yesterday I came upon the saddest picture I’ve seen in a long time, an aerial photo of a once large lake in California that looked as if it had about a tenth as much water in it as it should have. It was evidently once a popular lake for houseboats, because dozens of them were clustered into the part of the lake that was still wet. The scene reminded me of one I remember coming upon on an ocean beach –– a tidal pool with dozens of minnows clustered in an ever shrinking volume of water. The article opposite the California lake picture was about how the western United States is in the grip of worsening longterm drought. The article’s text was almost superfluous.

The Future of Covid-19

News Item (from Nature, a leading science magazine): “B.1.617.1 carries a mutation called 484Q, which [compared to B.1.1.7} is more strongly associated with vaccine escape.”

It looks as if U.S. deaths from Covid-19 will top out at a little more than 600,000, but the toll could shoot up to over a million if a variant emerges that is largely impervious to current vaccines. That’s why it’s essential to vaccinate as many people in the world as possible. Reduction of new cases equals reduction in odds of a variant emerging that is capable of “vaccine escape”.

Triumph and Tragedy

This was the title of Winston Churchill’s final volume in his monumental history of World War II. It could also be title of a history of the U.S. 2020 elections. The Democrats succeeded, albeit by the narrowest of margins, in gaining control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, but their victory has been ruthlessly undermined on the federal level by Republican obstructionism and on the state level, where Republicans control key legislatures and governorships, by passage of measures aimed at converting our country’s form of governance from a Constitutional democracy to one-party authoritarian rule.

Republicans could be thwarted, and American democracy sustained for many more years, were it not for Democratic senators Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, who have declared themselves unwilling to vote to abolish or suspend an archaic anti-democratic rule in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster, in order to assert federal authority to protect and preserve the electoral process in federal elections.

Investigation of the January 6th Insurrection

Jennifer Rubin, whom I regard as the most insightful of the Washington Post columnists, has adopted a policy of selectively answering questions submitted by readers. I asked her this one yesterday:

In the wake of Republicans blocking Congressional authorization of a commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection, what steps are being taken by appropriate Congressional committees to conduct their own investigations; to what degree will they be coordinated; will they possibly produce a report embracing their collective findings; to what degree will they be able bring out the key facts that Republicans are trying to keep hidden; and can this be accomplished sufficiently in advance of the 2022 elections?

Losing Democracy to Save the Filibuster

In a Facebook posting this morning, Robert Reich observed: “Future generations won’t understand why we were willing to lose American democracy because a few people wanted to preserve the filibuster.” Madness, perhaps, or malevolence, or some combination of the two? Future generations will theorize endlessly, but they will never understand it: By its nature, it’s incomprehensible.

The Constitution and the Bible

I read that a new edition of the Bible has come out, with the Constitution appended to it, reminding me of the bumper sticker I saw on a pickup truck that said: “I have my Bible, my Constitution, my Bible, and my gun: I am an American.”

A Cosmologist Considers the Mortality of the Universe

Katie Mack, a cosmologist and authority on the end of the universe, begins her brief Ted Talk on that subject by saying, “I love the universe.” I hadn’t heard anyone say that before, but was pleased to hear it. I feel a lot of affection for the universe myself. It belongs to all of us, and all of us belong to it, and it’s impossible to say much about it that isn’t a hopeless understatement. According to the latest scientific findings, the universe is going to die. Ninety percent of the stars that will ever form, have already formed, and every one of them is doomed.The universe will hang on for hundreds of billions of years, but it’s already over the hill. I empathize with Professor Mack’s dismay that this object she loves will die and share her happiness that we have come to know it so well.

Battle of the Titans

In what may be the greatest sporting event of the 21st Century, two of the richest people on the planet, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are competing with each other for who will be the biggest space travel tycoon. Each wants to establish a base on Mars, the well-known red-tinged planet that is vastly less hospitable to human life than the interior of Antartica. Musk and Bezos are both geniuses, though not in how they spend their money.

Demographic Trends

I read that the rate of world population growth is falling. This is regarded in some quarters as cause for alarm: Suppose population growth levels off, or worse, begins to fall. Economic growth would stagnate. Unemployment would rise, or, on the contrary, not enough goods could be produced. My view is that leveling off of population growth is essential to the long-term survival of our species. It would be best for population to trend down to levels where despoilation of the environment is reversed. Why not free people for better and more creative living and let robots do the work?

Self-Interest and Generosity

I read two articles, each making a persuasive case that the U.S. should mount an effort to vaccinate everyone in the world. Apparently that could be accomplished with 50 billion dollars, diplomacy, determination, arm-twisting, and refusing to be deterred by whining and complaining on the order of “We have enough to do at home without trying to take care of hundreds of other countries” and “This is liberal extreme-left-wing socialism on steroids.” In this case, and in a lot of other cases, by the way, generosity is in our own self-interest. If we don’t come close to stamping out Covid-19 globally, outbreaks will continuously occur. The more cases that occur, the more variants will occur. The more variants that occur, the more likely it is that one or more will be especially lethal, or transmissible, or resistant to vaccines, or a combination thereof, and, given the volume and ubiquity of international air travel, a highly transmissible virus anywhere is a direct threat everywhere. Such an initiative would also help reestablish the U.S. as an enlightened and generous-spirited world leader, all but erasing the image of an incompetent, corrupt, buffoonish, pathetic, failing state mirroring the mental processes of our disgraced former president.

An Inside Report from a Quality Inn

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, tonight after two days of unremarkable driving from St. Louis. Unremarkableness isn’t good from the standpoint of a blog writer, though it’s what most travelers seek. Our motel tonight –– a Quality Inn –– has two framed identical pictures on the wall. Did the Quality Inn company get a huge discount for buying in bulk, precluding having different pictures in the same room? Do all Quality Inns have the same two pictures? I’m curious about it, but not curious enough to investigate.

Tomorrow: back to weightier issues.

Descending through Kansas and Missouri; Checking up on the News.

Kansas is the tilted state. It slopes downward from Colorado to Missouri, losing about 3,000 feet of altitude from its west to its east boundary. The terrain continues to slope west to east through Missouri, though much more gently, until by the time you reach St. Louis, and the Mississippi River, you’re only about 450 feet above sea level, and summer sultriness has set in by late May.

Sara and I are staying here a couple of nights, visiting her relatives. Time to catch up on news. Let’s see — a poll says that 53% of Republicans think Trump is the true president. Another segment of Republicans think Trump isn’t the true president but that the election was stolen from him. As Jennifer Rubin wrote in a Washington Post column this morning, “There is no way to ‘understand’ MAGA voters . . . They are beyond the bounds of rational political debate.”

Sunday in Kansas

Sunday, we spent most of the time driving east on I-70, which seems to go on forever through this impressively wide state. Livening up what otherwise would have been an uninspiring day was the assembling of demonstrators, I guess they would be called, on overpass bridges, people holding American flags and other types of flags, and waving at occupants of approaching cars. The occasion seems to have been the one-year anniversary of the murder of Geoge Floyd by a police officer. Apparently that was a reason to show loyalty to the disgraced former president and support his false claim that the election was stolen from him. Trump and his supporters have been working furiously to supplant constitutional democracy with authoritarian rule. I wonder how many of these flag-waving folks appreciate the irony of affecting patriotism in their support of a movement to overthrow the government of the United States.

Hitting the Road

Saturday, Sara and I started driving from Durango Colorado to Long Island, taking it slow and visiting relatives along the way. Last night we stayed in Limon, which is fifty miles or so east of Denver.

Highlights: the strangely beautiful landscape east of Wolf Creek Pass; the saddening devastation of spruce forests in the vicinity of the pass, the work of pine bark beetles, which thrive as the climate warms; the etherial beauty of black angus cows against bright green grass of meadowlands; leaving the mountains behind and entering the great plains; driving through a windmill farm –– we slow and open windows, hoping to hear the whirring blades; can’t, but they are majestic. I wondered what Don Quixote would have thought of them. The blades don’t sweep close enough to the ground to hack at them with a sword.

The brooding dark clouds. Rain, driving rain; hail, near darkness an hour before sunset. We pull over and wait till it lets up, though we’re only half a mile from La Quinta Inn, where we’re booked for the night. When we got there, a couple of dozen people are hanging out in the lobby, seeking shelter. We are under a tornado warning! All in all, it was a satisfying day.

The Trouble We’re In

In a single sentence in her New York Times column yesterday, Michelle Goldberg explained the principal source of the trouble we’re in: “For four years America was run by a sociopathic con man with a dark magnetism who enveloped a huge part of the country in a dangerous alternative reality.” And, she might have added, continues to perpetuate it.

Tax Policy and the Super Rich

Robert Reich is a master at wielding statistics to prove a point. A familiar refrain of his is that the rich and super rich aren’t taxed enough. I agree with him. The innumerable loopholes and breaks sprinkled throughout the Internal Revenue Code were largely drafted by lawyers and accountants whose clients benefit from them. Reich cites the 25 bathrooms in Jeff Bezos’s D.C. mansion as damning evidence that the super rich aren’t taxed enough. At, I’m guessing, $100,000 average for each luxury bathroom, that adds up to 2.5 million dollars, just for bathrooms in just one of Bezos’s residences.
Professor Riech would have done well to wait for an update on Bezos’s spending: For the price of a new yacht he’s acquiring, he could have bought 5,000 more bathrooms.

Report from the Battlefield of the War on Truth

The House voted to authorize an expert nonpartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and occupation of the Capitol. A large majority of Republicans voted against the measure, and it’s expected that senate Republicans will block it. Republicans don’t want the full truth coming out about the insurrection, because it would expose their cynical and reprehensible support of the insurrectionist in chief. The Washington Post has a slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness.” All but a few Republicans want the lights turned out.

Republicans and America’s Future

A recent poll shows that about two-thirds of Republicans –– a sizable segment of the population –- say that it’s important for Republicans to be loyal to Trump. This is like saying it’s important to be loyal to the devil: Trump favors spreading the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him, instigating an insurrection when the occasion presents itself, pressing for phony audits of election results, spreading false conspiracy theories, and every other means possible in an effort to convert our form of government from a Constitutional democracy to authoritarian one-party rule.

Until recent years, with the exception of a tiny percentage of he population, all Republicans and all Democrats revered our democracy and our form of government. That’s what all the flag-waving and the Fourth of July celebrations are supposed to be about. That’s what, despite all its flaws and acrimony between political parties, made America an exceptional country, a shining beacon of democracy.

Adoption of the authoritarian ethos by one of our two great political parties and a substantial portion of the population, abetted by a substantial portion of the media, is a development that has already caused our country immeasurable damage and may wreck it completely.

The View from Ninety

I can state with authority that writing “The View from Ninety,” posted elsewhere on this website, has improved my psychic state. Others can judge whether it has wider applicability.

American Democracy Incurs a Possibly Mortal Blow

News Item: “A push for sweeping federal election legislation appears to be dying out.” 

Republican-controlled state legislatures are busily passing targeted vote suppression laws and laws that would have the effect of allowing Republican-controlled legislatures to manipulate election results in the fashion that Trump and his enablers tried but failed to achieve in the case of the 2020 elections. Federal voting rights protection legislation is desperately needed to counter these baleful initiatives, but apparently can’t make it through Congress. 

Today, this is just one of dozens of news items, but a few years from now it may look like the punch that knocked American democracy out of the ring.

The Meaning of Liz Cheney

As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted last week, what Liz Cheney, a veteran Republican Congresswoman with as impeccable conservative credentials as anyone in Congress, is saying is that “the vast majority of House Republicans are liars, unfit to serve.” That this is unquestionably true marks a horrifying unprecedented shift in the course of American history. We are so immersed in the flood of events taking place in a seemingly speeded-up passage of time that we’re in danger of becoming numb to the enormity of what has happened. 

Why Write a Daily Blog

The playwright Ionesco said, “I write to find out what I think.” That’s a good reason for keeping a journal or writing a daily blog. Writing helps you consider what’s important and sharpens your thinking. Useful deas may occur to you that wouldn’t otherwise. Some people have many more conversations each day than I have, and in them give their opinions and try to be informative and point out things they think others would be interested in hearing about. Writing a daily blog is one of the ways I make up for my relative isolation. And I hope to influence the thinking of others for the good.  

Senator Joe Manchin 

A congeries of circumstances have thrust Joe Manchin into a position of  extraordinary power. Manchin is considered to be the most conservative Democratic senator. He represents a state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2020 elections. He holds a pivotal position in a senate split 50-50 between those aligned with the Republican leadership and those aligned with the Democratic leadership. It may not be an overstatement to say that Manchin has the power to save American democracy or trash it. 

     Being thrust into a position of great power, like winning a mega million lottery, can affect one’s thinking. It’s an experience that in many instances generates arrogance and ego-driven behavior. It can also invest the lucky winner with a sense of moral responsibility. We’ll learn in the coming months how it affects Joe Manchin.

For Want of a Whim American Democracy May Be Lost

Unless federal legislation is passed to counter voter suppression and election results manipulation laws enacted in states controlled by the Authoritarian Party (still called the Republican Party), the Authoritarian Party will likely gain control of Congress in the 2022 elections.

Unless the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate can be set aside, federal legislation countering voter suppression laws cannot pass.

Without the vote of Democratic senator Joe Manchin, the filibuster rule cannot be set aside.

Since Manchin has declared his opposition to setting the filibuster rule aside, it will take a whim –– a surprising turn in his thinking –– for him to allow the filibuster rule to be set aside.

For want of a whim American democracy may be lost.

The Authoritarian Party and American Democracy

The biggest threat to America isn’t China or Russia; it’s the Republican Party, which has adopted an authoritarian strategy of wanton lying, promoting alternate realities, obstructionism, voter suppression, and election results manipulation. Republicans have cast their most basic civic responsibilities aside and pinned their hopes on achieving authoritarian rule. If they succeed in their ambitions, American democracy will end. If they fail, American democracy will be invigorated. As Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Note: I slightly revised today’s post, and I see that the Word Processing program kept the older version instead of replacing it with this one. I’ve decided to keep both. It’s like underlining a statement for emphasis. 

The Authoritarian Party and American Democracy

The biggest threat to America isn’t China or Russia; it’s the Republican Party, which has adopted an authoritarian strategy of wanton lying, promoting alternate realities, obstructionism, and voter suppression. Republicans have cast aside heir most basic civic responsibilities  and pinned their hopes on achieving authoritarian rule. If they succeed in their ambitions, American democracy will end. If they fail, American democracy will be invigorated. As Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Note from the “You Can Tell the Men from the Boys by the Price of Their Toys” Department

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man ever, has commissioned construction of the world’s most expensive yacht ever. It’s reported cost is $500 million. The upkeep and operating cost will probably be at least $50 million a year. The only thing it lacks is a helicopter pad. That’s not a problem for Mr. Bezos. He has ordered an assistant yacht with a helicopter pad. The assistant yacht will tag along behind the main yacht. The assistant yacht can probably be obtained for under a $100 million and will only cost $10 million a year to maintain.

  The only problem, as I see it, speaking as a former naval person, is that if Mr. Bezos wants to take a helicopter to get somewhere from his yacht, he’ll first have to take a motor boat from it to get to his assistant yacht. How plebeian. 

 I suspect that Mr. Bezos will take a couple of rides on his new yacht, but quickly tire of it and put it on the market. He may have trouble selling it. Ordinary billionaires won’t  be able to afford it.

    

“Horizons” Growth, Population Growth, and A.I. Growth

Headline: “Slowing population growth raises questions about America as a land with unlimited horizons.” 

This suggests that a continuing high rate of growth in population is a good thing. But horizons are not limited by slow population growth. They are limited by how much land there is, how extensive our natural resources are, and how urgent our need is to reduce environmental degradation. More people equals more crowdedness, more greenhouse emissions, and more nature being crowded out. Horizons shrink as the number of people grows. Humanity’s welfare and chances of longterm survival depend in substantial part on the degree we are able to temper population growth. A few months ago, I read that there would be increasingly high unemployment as A.I devices become more and more capable of performing work done by humans. Lately, the main concern seems to be the opposite: that the labor force won’t grow enough to keep pace with goals for ever increasing economic growth. I think the best course is to adopt a low population-growth policy and avoid labor shortages by pursuing an aggressive A.I. development policy.

The View from Ninety

This past year I wrote a book titled The View from Ninety. I set forth in it how I look at life, which it turned out is a lot different than I looked at life when I was twenty, fifty, or even eighty. This winter, after getting the manuscript in pretty smooth shape, I sent it to my literary agent. She wrote back and said just about every nice thing that anyone has ever said about anything other than that she thought someone would want to publish it. 

Rather than self-publish it, I thought, well, during the next two years I can probably make it a better book, and The View from Ninety-Two is a better title anyway. Meanwhile, I’ve distilled the main theme into an essay and posted it elsewhere on this website. 

The Most Dangerous Pathogen

Headline: “Republicans are embracing Trump-enabled conspiracy theories more vigorously than ever.”

It’s as if a pandemic of a virus that infects the brain has swept the land, Republicans are singularly vulnerable to it, nearly all of them have fallen ill with it, there’s no cure for it, nor hope that a vaccine will be developed to prevent it, and even if there were, those vulnerable to it would refuse to be inoculated. The pathogen destroys judgment and any sense of what is right and wrong. Victims become obsessed with bizarre and patently irrational theories and become willing to destroy democracy in order to invest power in hyper ego-centric demagogues. For example, in what, if it were a movie, would be a farce too absurd to be considered for public release, the Arizona Republican-controlled senate recently hired a firm with the name of Cyber Ninjas, owned by an extremist Trump supporter, to conduct a faux audit of the results in the state’s most populous county of last fall’s election. Meanwhile, although Trump is out of office, he is as active as ever as a super-spreader of this ghastly disease.

Climate Policy

I read that China now accounts for 27% of the world’s greenhouse emissions, the U.S. accounts for 11%, India and the E.U., for about 7% each. Climate change can’t be significantly slowed unless emissions are sharply brought down beginning very soon. This can’t happen without a consensus among world leaders that we have to unite to act much more aggressively.  Something more is needed than the “Paris accord” and various countries and mega-corporations setting goals. China’s participation is critical. Biden should initiate discussions with Xi Jinping to discuss the issue. If a common understanding can be reached, it would ease tensions between the two countries in other respects. Probably nothing can be done. But we should try, and not just pretend to try.

What a Way to Wake Up

I wake up and selectively read the news. Today I started off reading about China’s relentless determination to control Taiwan. When the time is right, they’ll take dramatic action to that end, and the U.S. will be powerless to do anything more than get a lot of people killed. Then I read about how Trump’s Big Lie has devoured the GOP. Except for a few brave and honorable souls like Rep. Liz Cheney, a longtime stalwart conservative and pillar of the party who is about to get thrown out of it for telling the truth, Republican leaders and the great majority of their followers have cast their lot with the sociopathic former president, causing me to wonder: If you decide to convert one of America’s two great political parties into an authoritarian force, can’t you find a less repulsive figure to unite behind? I’m sure that, if they could, they would, but I can understand their thinking, “Hey, you take what you can get.” Now on to the next news item.

Lying: It’s the Republican Way

Headline for a Michael Gerson Washington Post column: “Elected Republicans are lying with open eyes. Their excuses are disgraceful.”

  Since they can’t win on issues, they conduct a war of words. Since since they can’t win a war of words with true words, they conduct it with false words, aided by right-wing media masters long accomplished at “lying with open eyes.”

The #1 Tragedy of the Day

Headline: “Rejection of 2020 election results becomes defining GOP loyalty test.” It’s fair to call this the #1 tragedy of the day. Republican leaders and the great majority of those who follow their lead embrace the sociopathic former president’s big lie that the election was stolen. Honorable Republican leaders, like Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Liz Cheney, who refuse to spout malicious falsehoods, are ostracized. Mass depravity has become the defining characteristic of one of America’s two great political parties. It’s an unfathomable, extremely disturbing turn of events.

Billonaires’s Minds

Robert Reich is unexcelled in marshaling statistics to illustrate the extremities of wealth and income inequality and how the tax laws are rigged to favor the rich and especially the super rich and why the U.S. should have a much more progressive tax system. One of Reich’s favorite targets is Jeff Bezos, who is reputed to be the richest man in the world except when Elon Musk is. Last week Reich spread the news that Bezos’s D.C. mansion has 25 bathrooms. That does seem excessive, doesn’t it? Is it not a window into Bezos’s psychic state? The trouble seems to be that most billions are made by people with pathologically acquisitive minds.

The Most Urgent Global Need

India has been overwhelmed by a large upsurge in Covid cases. More contagious and possibly more lethal variants are outstripping vaccination capabilities. Chances of variants arising that are highly contagious and resistant to current vaccines are proportional to numbers of new cases. It’s critical –– for selfish reasons as well as humanitarian ones –– that world-wide vaccine manufacture and distribution be stepped up at an accelerated rate. Intellectual property rights must be subordinated to this most urgent global need.

Putin and Navalny

Vladimir Putin, the malevolent despot who rules Russia, has been trying to kill Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader, in a way that makes it seem like a natural death, or as if someone else did it. This is not as easy as it might seem, because Navalny is courageous, wily, and a model of virtuous behavior. No one knows how the conflict will play out. Putin is a model of depravity. Navalny is a model of how to live and a beacon of hope for the world.

Mortal Threats 

Some weeks ago, I got a communication from the Nuclear Threat Initiative discussing the danger of governments sleepwalking into nuclear war. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman commented on a new book, jointly written by an admiral and an intelligence expert, titled 2034 –- a Novel of the Next World War. The war is with China, and it goes nuclear.

 The scenario is plausible. The pile of dry tinder waiting for a match to be thrown on it is Taiwan, and, in particular, technological capabilities of Taiwanese companies that China covets. Think of trains in the dark heading towards each other on the same track, still some distance away, but the engineers are distracted and under stress. Our leaders need to stay awake and think hard and work hard to avoid mortal threats, of which this is just one.

The Night Sky

The most wonderful sight I’ve ever beheld is one that most human beings who ever lived saw countless times — the unobscured night sky on a clear moonless night undiminished by ambient light from human sources. This is an experience that, because of light pollution from highly populated areas, only a small percentage of people living today have had.  Some places, far from urban centers, can rightly be classified as “dark sky locations,” but yesterday I read that there may no longer be any place on Earth where the night sky is not affected by light reflected from satellites and space junk orbiting Earth.

      The upside of this is that one of these satellites is the Hubble Space Telescope, which has provided us with thousands of stunning images that most people who ever lived have never seen and few imagined could exist.  

Getting History Straight

Headline: “Biden declares that the 1915 mass massacre of Armenians was a ‘genocide’, breaking with tradition amid tense relations with Turkey.” Because it would offend the rulers of Turkey, this has been a subject that American presidents have been reluctant to discuss, even though the facts have not been in doubt.

No government should be complicit in covering up monstrous acts. True painful facts should be exposed to the light of day. It might be a good idea for the U.S. to commission a panel of respected historians to document all the instances in which our country had transgressed human rights. Let’s put on record our own ignominious failings. We’ll be more likely to avoid repeating them, and we’ll have moral standing to condemn those of other nations. 

The Tragedy of the Moral Descent of the Republican Party

Sometimes things are so weird that they are hard to believe even when we know they’re true. That’s what caused Chicago Daily News reporter Charley Owens to say, after hearing that the much admired baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson admitted that he had cheated in the 1919 World Series, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

     Shoeless Joe had more integrity than the close to 50 U.S. Republican senators and 212 Republican House members who aren’t admitting that they have betrayed our country by mouthing Russian propaganda about the election; being dismissive of the January 6th insurrection; trying to disenfranchise voters, particularly in areas with large Black populations; abetting “replacement theory” and white nationalism; keeping alive the big lies that the 2016 presidential election was stolen from Trump and that voter fraud is a serious problem; and . . . the list goes on –– Jennifer Rubin laid it out in her Washington Post column yesterday. It’s sickening that the vast majority of Republican politicians have chosen to descend to the moral plane of the disgraced former president, and that they will never say it’s so.  

The State of the Supreme Court

It has come to pass that the Supreme Court of the United States is controlled by six people who are usually referred to as conservatives, though the defining feature of their characters is not “conservativism,” it’s a religiously-justified ideological rigidity hostile to enlightened, liberal, compassionate ideals and attitudes. That this is the case was conclusively revealed this past week in the Court’s 6-3 upholding of the sentencing of a 31-year-old man to life in prison without even the possibility of parole for killing his grandfather when he was barely 15 years-old.

   This ruling will do nothing to deter juveniles from committing violent crimes. It denies the possibility of redemption. It denies the possibility that someone’s psychic state might change over the course of his life from what it was when he was an abused child. It denies non-controversial findings of neuroscientists that the frontal cerebral cortex of human brains –– the faculty responsible for exercising judgment –– is slow to develop and far from fully formed in brains of adolescents. 

    In rendering their decision, these six justices revealed their corrupted vision of human life, their mean-spiritedness, and their ignorance of science. That they control the Court is one of the tragedies of our times.

Climate Change and Human Destiny

Noam Chomsky: “If we don’t take control of environmental destruction in the next decade or two, we’re finished. It’s that simple.”

Climate Change Initiatives and Destiny

 

It’s heartening and commendable that president Biden has pledged to reduce U.S. carbon emission 50% by 2030. If every country could do that, humanity might have a chance of saving itself from self-extinction. But in our fractured polity how can the Biden Administration get the measures enacted to pursue that goal? 

Meanwhile, China says it will achieve net zero emissions by 2060, but that its emissions will keep rising until 2030. Is there any reason to have confidence in what the present ruler of China says will be achieved 39 years from now? Then there’s India, soon to be the world’s most populous country, whose Covid situation, among other problems, is out of control. And Russia, run by an old-fashioned ruthless tyrant, whose main revenue comes from fossil fuels. And Africa, whose energy needs are likely to grow exponentially in the coming years. I wonder whether at some point, perhaps fairly soon, world leaders and experts will acknowledge that human destiny is to destroy itself. I’m just wondering, not predicting.

The Authoritarian Party 

The Political Party that is known as the Republican Party has embraced the mindset of the sociopathic former president, thereby disassociating itself from the “Grand Old Party,” the Republican Party of former times. 

In almost every state, Republicans have passed or are attempting to pass legislation targeted to reduce voter turnout among citizens likely to vote for Democrats. Recently, as Robert Reich reports, “State Republicans in 34 states have introduced 81anti-protest bills in 2021 so far,” including laws passed in Florida, Oklahoma, and Iowa granting immunity to drivers who drive through and injure crowds of protesters!

It’s evident that if a Putin-like aspiring despot took over leadership of the Republican Party, the great majority of Republican politicians would follow him. They would follow the sociopathic former president if he runs again. Simply put, most Republican politicians are authoritarian-minded, and there are a lot of them, and collectively they have a lot of power and pose a grave threat American democracy. 

The Power of Bystanders

It’s been widely noted that the murderer of George Floyd would not have been prosecuted, if it had not been for bystanders who videoed the crime and came forth to testify about it. Crime would be reduced and the administration of justice improved if everyone capable of doing so carried a phone capable of making video recordings and resolved to bring serious crimes they witnessed to public awareness. 

Why the IRS is Deprived of Adequate Staff and Resources

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne recently noted that the IRS commissioner reported that as much as a trillion dollars a year is not collected because of errors and fraud, and because the IRS lacks the staff to go after the money. I also read that every dollar of extra funding for the IRS would yield six dollars in added dollars collected. This situation is self-worsening: The more people hear about how many people are getting away with cheating on their taxes, the more people say, “Why am I such a chump as to be paying the full amount?” 

Why doesn’t Congress act with alacrity to provide the IRS with adequate resources? Could it be that a lot of rich donors to political campaigns prefer to keep the IRA underfunded. What other reason could there be?

Infrastructure Legislation, Greed, and Power

The United States faces multiple very serious challenges. Democrats have put forward multiple legislative proposals to to meet them. In 2017, Republicans rammed through legislation providing for enormous tax reductions for corporations, the rich, and especially the super rich, despite any economic need for them and despite the appalling rise in income and wealth inequality that had been in progress. Now, in 2021, Republican politicians balk at the idea that some of these breaks should be reversed to finance needed initiatives. Their superrich donors wouldn’t look like it. Power-fueled greed may cripple our country’s future.

Restructuring the Supreme Court

“Packing” the Supreme Court (increasing the number of justices on the Court) sounds like a bad idea. Even Justice Breyer, a liberal, thinks it would erode public confidence in the Court. On the other hand, Republicans have been packing the court for some time, and not with standard mainstream Republicans, but with ideologues. Most notoriously, in 2016, Mitch McConnell, abetted by the Republican-controlled senate, refused to allow a hearing for President Obama’s superbly qualified nominee, Merrick Garland, enabling Trump to install a temperamentally unfit right-wing judge after he took office. And in October 2020, Republicans rammed through confirmation of a right-wing ideologue on the eve of the presidential election.

Robert Reich, master of salient facts, has noted that “since 1969, Democratic presidents have appointed 4 Supreme Court justices, while Republicans have appointed 16 (5 of them by presidents who lost the popular vote).” Arguably, to achieve public confidence in the Court, the balance should be restored.

Biden Blunder

Biden appears to have made a serious blunder in saying that the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in the coming year would be no higher than the number Trump had set. The White House said that a final decision would be made by May 15. Feeling pressure from all directions on all fronts, Biden seems to have gotten his Irish up (let his irritation get the best of him) and thought, “I’ve got to be tough.” He failed to consider the powerful adverse psychological effect this announcement would have. He has generally been performing well, but the challenges he faces and the demands on him are enormous. America can’t afford having him stumble. 

Notes from the Misinformation Age

News Item: “A recent poll shows that 43 percent of Republicans are determined not to get a shot.” It’s a good bet that these are roughly the same people who believe Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen from him. There’s something about them that renders them vulnerable to nihilistic propaganda.  The more people who get Covid, the more likely it is that a variant will emerge that’s resistant to current vaccines. Alternative facts cost lives.

Pulling Out of Afghanistan

I don’t know enough to form an opinion rather than guess, but my guess is that Biden was right to announce a firm pullout date. It’s not a war we can win. Our armed forces are spread too thin as it is. Eighty thousand Russian troops are massed on the Ukrainian border. China is converting the South China Sea into a Chinese pond. Our problems are manifold, Congress is divided, Our society is in disarray.  

   We have clear duties remaining with respect to Afghanistan. We must allow the Afghanis who helped American operations and seek refuge in the U.S. to be swiftly admitted and given a path to citizenship. We must monitor the situation in that beleaguered country indefinitely. We must help its people any way we reasonably can.

The Media and Abnormal Politicians

Journalists are trained to search for the truth, and in this process air opposing views, suppress any biases they may have, and deliver the news in such a way that viewers and readers can form their own opinion as to the truth of whatever is at issue. Despite the mass descent of Republican politicians to the base moral plane of the disgraced former president –– for example in (i) blocking his conviction after he was impeached for inciting the seditious January 6th mob invasion of the capitol that caused multiple deaths and injuries, and (ii) refusing to denounce his Big Lie that the election was stolen from him –– as Jennifer Rubin noted in a Washington Post column yesterday, “the media . . .  continues to treat Republicans as normal politicians. . .” They are something else. Media, wake up!

    

Deals with the Devil

During the 2016 primaries, Republican politicians watched with dismay, trending toward wonder, as Trump attracted increasing numbers of Republican voters. Abetted by propagandistic right-wing media, he appealed to their worst instincts, which turned out to be abundant, and he won the nomination.

Republican politicians who had held him in contempt followed him like sheep, most of them, I suspect, thinking of themselves not as sheep, but as foxes using this repellent character as a tool for solidifying political power. They forgot that deals with the devil don’t work well. Trump is a human-shaped substance made of glue. Republican politicians got stuck to him. It would take the right stuff (decent moral character) to pull free from him, and they don’t have it.

News Note on the Disgraced Former President

If you read the account of the disgraced former president’s speech to a Republican National Committee gathering at his Mar-a-Lago Club, you can marvel that such a crude, mendacious, and thoroughly despicable man became president of the United States, then marvel again that most Republican politicians venerate or affect to venerate him because they think doing so works to their political advantage. Trumpism will endure for as long as America does as one of the most shameful episodes in our nation’s history.

Climate Change and Human Destiny

Colorado Headline: “Water supply, wildfire concerns loom over spring, summer.”

 There used to be just a ski season and a (summer) tourist season, and occasionally there were wildfires. Now there’s a wildfire season, one that seems to last longer each year. Along with happy anticipation, one feels the beginnings of dread at the approach of summer. The graph showing the number of parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere is dismaying. Glaciers are sliding over one another at a glacial pace that has speeded up. President Biden has a plan to combat climate change. There’s the Paris accord. Steps are being taken. Exxon is going to spend almost a billion dollars a year on “carbon capture.” Uh huh.

 I keep thinking of how Easter Island was once forested and people that lived there kept chopping down trees until they were gone. 

Time to Stop Putting Up with Putin

The agents of the Russian despotic dictator, Vladimir Putin, botched an attempt to assassinate Alexei Navalny, Russia’s principle opposition leader, by poisoning him. When Navalny courageously returned to Russia after recuperating in a German hospital, Putin had him arrested and incarcerated. Navalny has initiated a hunger strike after being denied medical care, which he apparently needs because of the sadistic treatment inflicted on him.

Executing Navalny might cause unpleasant blowback. Putin thinks it would be more politic for Navalny to die slowly from “unfortunate” medical conditions. An editorial last night in the online Washington Post urges that stronger sanctions be imposed to demonstrate to the chief monster in the Kremlin that the U.S. won’t ignore such behavior. The Post argues that an appropriate step would be to freeze the assets and apply visa bans of 35 oligarchs and their families in the Putin entourage. This sounds right to me.

The MaGa Crowd

The MaGa crowd, Trump cultists –– what Jennifer Rubin calls  a “permanently alienated, furious and irrational segment of Americans” –– comprises a large enough chunk of the American electorate so that Republicans can’t win Party primaries and can’t win general elections without their support. Instead of repudiating such types and honorably facing the world without their support, the rest of the Republican Party panders to them, lowering themselves to their level. 

Manchin Bashes a Hole below the Waterline in the Ship of State

In an Op-ed in last night’s online Washington Post, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he will not vote to circumvent the filibuster. Because of the 50-50 split in the senate, and united Republican opposition to all of Biden’s legislative initiatives, this looks likely to doom the rest of Biden’s progressive agenda. Manchin justified his position by claiming to be a champion of bipartisanship. But since the Republicans have rejected bipartisanship, and preserving the filibuster will only bring forth from them self-satisfied snickers, Manchin’s position makes no sense. Manchin has bashed a hole below the waterline in the ship of state, and it doesn’t look as if it can be plugged.

Voting Rights and the Filibuster

Because all Republican senators will vote against it, there’s no way Congress can pass desperately needed voting rights protection legislation without elimination or targeted reform of the filibuster. Two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, though presumably they would vote to pass voting rights bills, appear to be intransigent about preserving the filibuster. They evidently feel that if they don’t vote to preserve the filibuster, they will lose the votes of centrists and independents they need to hang on to if they are to keep their seats in the senate. Passage of voting rights protection is critically important. Neither of these senators appears to have the courage or conviction to do the right thing.

The Spookiest Thing

I don’t know if it’s the most dangerous threat to our country and our civilization, but it’s clearly the spookiest thing affecting us –-something I could never have imagined would happen –– that, despite the overwhelming evidence of its falsity, 60% of Republicans believe Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him and believe a lot of other malicious nonsense as well. As Robert Reich noted in a Facebook posting yesterday, “Fueled by the right-wing media ecosystem, a huge portion of the electorate now lives in a parallel reality where facts and truth don’t exist.” What measure of havoc this phenomenon will inflict on our country is impossible to predict. It doesn’t bode well.

 

How Republicans Can Sleep at Night

Republican members of Congress, possibly without exception, are adhering to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s policy, which is to block every significant legislative initiative advanced by Democrats regardless of whether or not it’s in our country’s interest to do so. Their aim is to keep the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress from accomplishing anything during this term of Congress, thereby positioning Republicans to urge the electorate to restore them to power, so that they can institute constructive policies and lead the country to greatness. 

How can Republicans sleep at night by pursuing such a policy? They can sleep at night because their brains are constituted in such a way that they are unaffected by matters of conscience. 

The Border

You can see the Mexican border problem in a different perspective if you read Jorge Ramos’s op-ed  in the online New York Times. He tells of how when he was in elementary school in Mexico City he learned that in 1848, with the end of the Mexican-American war, Mexico was forced to cede 55 percent of its territory to the U.S. for 15 million dollars. Thereupon, Ramos notes, a lot of Mexicans didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them.

America desperately needs an enlightened immigration policy. Despite President Biden’s good intentions, it seems unlikely that one will materialize. Ramos commented that in 1997 the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes described the U.S. – Mexico border as a “bleeding scar.” It’s hard to see how it can be healed until the U.S. heals itself. 

Baseball and Democracy

This past week, the organization that runs major league baseball moved the All Star Game from Georgia in a stunning rebuke of the GOP-controlled government of that state for enacting election laws designed to make it harder for people likely to vote Democratic to cast their ballots, and, worse than that, to permit GOP officials to overturn local election results not to their liking, a brazen attempt to convert democracy into one-party authoritarian rule. Georgia-based Delta Airlines and Coca Cola also, though belatedly, criticized the new laws. 

That large conservative-minded organizations find voter repression laws on this scale sufficiently repellant to speak out about them should be instructive to Democratic senators who have been reluctant to reform the senate filibuster rule that threatens to prevent Congress from nullifying such grossly anti-democratic legislation.

With regard to the issue of voting rights protection, the contest between Democrats and Republicans is not the classic one between differing shades of political philosophies, it’s one between the good guys and the bad guys. 

Republican Party Policy

Republicans have so far introduced 361 voter suppression bills in the legislatures 47 states. That’s their main business these days, along with trying to block every significant legislative proposal introduced by Democrats in Congress. 

Republicans have no responsible agenda of their own. Their aim is to Block Biden Better. If they can sufficiently reduce Democratic turnout and cause Biden to fail, they can gain control of both the House and the Senate in 2022. 

The Big Infrastructure Program and Tax Policy

Republicans senators and members of Congress will probably vote unanimously against the 2.3 trillion dollar infrastructure and remedial spending legislative package advanced by Democrats. They will say it’s too expensive. They didn’t say the 1.9 trillion dollar tax cuts primarily for the rich and especially for the super rich they rammed through in 2017 after Trump took office was too expensive.

The proposed infrastructure expenditures this year are for much needed investment in our country that will yield a high rate of return and will benefit everyone. A good way to finance it would be to reverse the tax cuts primarily for the rich and especially for the super rich of 2017. And this should be just the beginning of instituting a more progressive tax policy if we are to strengthen our country and reverse the longterm trend toward ever greater income inequality.

The Filibuster

In his book Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, Adam Jentleson exposes the filibuster’s true nature as an anti-democratic mechanism with dark roots in efforts to establish white supremacy and suppress civil rights. Politicians defending it claim that it protects the public from the tyranny of the majority. In fact, it serves to inflict upon the public the tyranny of the minority. That will be its effect writ large if it stands in the way of voting rights protection bills passed by the House and awaiting consideration by the Senate. As of this moment, it appears likely that if the filibuster survives, American democracy won’t.

My Favorite Person of the Week

Born in Japan, Mazie Hirono, a Democratic senator from Hawaii, is a great American. In a recent interview she aptly describes the status of most Republican politicians: “When you enter the moral dead zone that is the Trump ambit, you’ve lost your soul.” What is Hirono’s attitude toward Republicans who have lost their soul? She says, “When they vote en masse to screw people over, it’s hard to be all warm and fuzzy.”

Sociopaths and Georgia Republican Politicians

As the Harvard psychologist Martha Stout pointed out in her book The Sociopath Next Door, a defining characteristic of sociopaths is that they lack a conscience. They can only think of their own interests. They aren’t capable of empathy.Many sociopaths rise to positions of power. It’s convenient not to be slowed in carrying out your ambitions by thinking about how your actions might hurt others.                                                                                                                                       

A trouble for sociopaths, however, is that this cognitive abnormality sometimes prevents them from seeing how thoughtless their behavior would appear to others. A recent instance of this was senator Ted Cruz’s escape to Cancun with his family when most of his constituents in Texas were freezing and without power and water after an unusually severe winter storm. Last week, the sociopaths who control the Georgia Republican Party passed an assortment of targeted voter suppression laws, one of which made it a crime to give someone who has been waiting in line to vote for hours (another effect of voter suppression) a bottle of water regardless of how thirsty they might be. Were they not sociopaths, they would have foreseen that by inserting such a provision in the law, they would reveal themselves to be bizarrely antisocial in pursuit of their ambitions.

The Authoritarian Party

Republican-controlled state legislatures are engaged in passing targeted voting suppression laws. The new repertoire of laws in Georgia includes one that goes beyond that: It would enable Republican election officials to overturn election results they don’t like. Sounds unconstitutional, doesn’t it. But would the right-wing justices who control the Supreme Court so rule in a case brought before it?  The Republican Party, which has become the Authoritarian Party, is united in its strategy of voter suppression. That’s the Authoritarian Party way. Congressional legislation is essential to protect voting rights and the integrity of the electoral process.

The Issue That Is Key to All Issues

In a recent Facebook post, Robert Reich said, “{Democrats} have a tiny window of opportunity to abolish the filibuster and raise the minimum wage, protect voting rights, provide universal health care, save the climate, raise taxes on the rich, and get big money out of politics.” 

Of these, protecting voting rights is the key to keeping the window open longer. Protecting voting rights requires forbidding the filibuster to block voting rights legislation. If all 50 Democratic senators can agree to that, American democracy will likely be saved. If not, it will likely be lost.

Brain Virus?

Headline: “49% of Republican men say they won’t get vaccinated.” Is there some sort of virus that gets in these people’s brains that causes them to form convictions contrary to elementary general knowledge and against their own self-interest? You can bet most of them would tell you the election was stolen from Trump. I suspect that they seize upon and adhere to such myths as a way of propping themselves up, carving out a world of alternative facts in which they are special; they are in the right. Self-satisfaction in their contrariness sustains them. 

Can Democrats Pass Voting Rights Legislation?

Senator Amy Klobuchar explained why she and other Democrats say they are confident that they can get voting rights protection legislation passed despite unanimous Republican intransigence and lack of enough votes of senate Democrats to break the filibuster, which would permit the relevant bills to pass by a simple majority. Klobuchar explained that Democrats can bring the voting rights bills to the floor of the senate for full debate. Republican senators, who uniformly oppose voting rights protection, will argue against them. Since all such arguments are absurd on their face, the Republicans’s true motive –– establishment of white supremacist anti-democratic one party rule –– will be glaringly exposed to public view. Some Republicans will thereupon give way and vote for passage of the bills; or Democrats opposed to reforming the filibuster will gain enough political cover to dare to reverse their opposition to filibuster reform, enabling voting rights bills to pass by a simple majority. 

It’s a pretty picture, and it’s essential that it happens, but it still looks like long shot to me.

The District of Columbia Should Be Made a State

The District of Columbia, which has a larger population than Wyoming and Vermont, should be made a state. Robert Reich said it well: “46% of D.C. is black, and D.C. has no senators; 1% of Wyoming is black and Wyoming has 2 senators. Opposing D.C. Statehood is racist. Period.” Republicans haven’t advanced a single argument that isn’t silly on its face against making D.C. a state. Democrats like Joe Manchin who try to appear centrist and moderate by siding with Republicans on key issues like D.C. statehood and protecting voting rights place our democracy in great peril. 

Republican Strategy

In one of her Washington Post columns yesterday, Jennifer Rubin reiterated the doleful fact that because Republicans can no longer gain of retain power by “pandering to their White base,” they’ve adapted a strategy of disenfranchising people of color through targeted voter suppression laws and tactics. Their goal, as Rubin says, is “to permanently enshrine white supremacy and thereby unravel our democracy.” 

The Workings of Plutocracy

Everyone concerned with widening federal deficits and the scale of expenditures required to meet the nation’s needs should be aware that, from the standpoint of ordinary taxpayers, trillions of dollars go down the drain every year because of our inadequately progressive tax structure, enormous tax benefits and loopholes for rich people and corporations, and lack of mechanisms to ensure adequate collection of taxes by the Internal Revenue Service. 

All these deficiencies could be remedied, but rich people and rich corporations resist them and fund politicians who are willing to accommodate their donors. For every AOC and Elizabeth Warren in Congress there are a dozen Kevin McCarthys and Mitch McConnells. 

A Perilous Situation

Headline: No end in sight’: Inside the Biden administration’s failure to contain the border surge”

The cornerstone of Trump’s immigration policy was cruelty: Rip children away from their parents and lose track of where you send them. That will show those people not to try to enter our country. Biden rightly ended Trump’s despicable policy, but he failed to anticipate that the impetus to enter the United States would increase sharply once Trump was gone. 

Countering mass border crossings without being cruel requires a massive effort on the part of the United States. Biden’s failure to anticipate a crisis and prepare for it was a major failure on his part. It’s not clear that the crisis can be ended during the present term of Congress. Republicans see this a golden political opportunity to divert the public’s attention from their contemptible behavior in undermining our democracy and supporting and protecting the sociopath in the the White House for four years. 

The Power of Statistical Comparisons

Ari Berman, sometime MSNBC talk show maven, has become a rival to Robert Reich in adeptness at juxtaposing disparate statistics to dramatic effect. The latest: “38,000 gun deaths a year in the U.S.? Who needs gun control? Two cases of voter fraud in 2020; let’s pass 253 new voter suppression laws.”  

May Justice Prevail

Headline: Trump’s onslaught of legal problems: Investigations in multiple states and dozens of lawsuits.

May justice and fairness prevail, and Trump’s sustained effort to be above the law have dramatically adverse consequences for him in courts of law.

Slipping Away

 

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.

 For want of a horse, the battle was lost.

 For want of a battle the war was lost.

 –– all for the want of a nail.

 

So goes a rhyme that’s been lodged in my head for a long time.

 

     For  want of senator, filibuster reform will be lost. 

     For want of filibuster reform, a Federal voting rights act will be lost.

     For want of a Federal voting rights rights act, American democracy will be lost. 

     For want of American democracy, America will be lost.

–– all for the want of a senator.

The senator in question, Joe Manchin (D.) of West Virginia, isn’t lost yet; but he appears to be slipping away.

More About Good Book

I finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, Karla and the Sun, and want to say something about it without spoiling anyone’s experience of reading it with fresh eyes. Since readers learn on the first page or so that the book is narrated by an AF, an “artificial friend,” a character who is essentially a robot, or an android, or something in between, endowed with artificial intelligence at a level not yet attained in our society, but that’s almost certainly coming, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that much.

Nor do I think it’s a spoiler to say that by deftly creating such a character in a work of fiction, the author has conducted a valuable thought experiment. How might such a character be programed? What rules should be followed in designing the complex of algorithms that will govern her behavior? In what circumstances might the AF’s behavior deviate from the realm of what the designers thought possible? At what point do observed emotions in such a creature become real rather than simulated? At what point do ethical obligations toward such a creature arise? And will we ever be able to tell? 

The Overriding Issue

Can Congress pass effective voting protection legislation? It must in order to prevent massive disenfranchisement by Republican-controlled state legislatures that are busily enacting laws aimed at making it harder for people likely to vote for Democrats to vote. Congress can’t achieve this unless all Democratic senators agree to do away with, or at least modify, the filibuster rule. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, appearing on the Rachel Maddow show, has been saying  repeatedly, with regard to this and other matters, “Failure is not an option.” That’s a nice, if overused, phrase. The trouble is that failure is an option, and avoiding it is not within Mr. Schumer’s control. 

I assume that, behind the scenes, talks are taking place. It’s critical that they succeed in getting all Democratic senators on board. Protection of voting rights is the overriding issue during the rest of this Congress’s term. 

A Good Book

Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, Karla and the Sun, which I’m sixty percent through, is the most engaging novel I’ve read in a long time. It’s been heavily reviewed, but I’m not going to read any reviews until I’ve finished it, and I recommend you avoid them too, and I’m not going to say anything about here, except that reading it at bedtime may not be a good idea. It left such an imprint on my mind last evening, like the imprint of a bright light that lingers after you’ve closed your eyes, that it took me two hours to go to sleep and is still there this morning.

Time Out for Trivia

A friend of mine who is tech expert once commented that “Computers sometimes seem to have a mind of their own.” Or programs. Or collections of algorithms, for sure. That’s why my last two entries on this blog are in reverse order and share the same date. What caused the program to “go rogue”?  In this case it was that I tried to change the heading on the previous day’s blog. Sorry, program, it won’t happen again, probably.

Why is there such a gap between this blog and the last one?  Dunno. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow.

 

 

 

A Senate Rule that Reveals the Plutocratic Character of Our Democracy

Professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, whom I follow on Facebook, is a master of comparative data. In a posting yesterday, he asked why 60 votes in the senate is necessary to raise the minimum wage for ordinary people, but it only takes 51 votes to pass a 1.9 trillion dollar tax cut for corporations and the super-rich. That’s the kind of remark that sends Republican state legislators scurrying to introduce bills designed to make it more difficult for ordinary people to vote. 

Ways of Referring to Trump

Robert Reich, whom I wrote about yesterday, has always thought it’s inappropriately respectful to call Trump “President Trump” or “Mr. Trump.” Among the hundreds of Professor Reich’s Facebook postings I’ve read over the past five years; he never once referred to the former TV reality star other than as “Trump.” I read the transcript of an interview with Spike Lee a couple of days ago, from which I learned that Mr. Lee thinks that calling Trump “Trump” is inappropriately respectful and makes it a practice to never refer to him other than as “Agent Orange.” Jennifer Rubin, who in my opinion is the most astute of the Washington Post op-ed columnists, also thinks calling Trump “Trump” is inappropriately respectful. She prefers to refer to him as “the disgraced former president.” That’s more elevated verbiage, certainly, but I think “Agent Orange” is preferable because it more perfectly captures the essence of the man.

A Senate Rule that Reveals the Plutocratic Character of Our Democracy

Professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, whom I follow on Facebook, is a master of comparative data. In a posting yesterday, he asked why 60 votes in the senate is necessary to raise the minimum wage for ordinary people, but it only takes 51 votes to pass a 1.9 trillion dollar tax cut for corporations and the super-rich. That’s the kind of remark that sends Republican state legislators scurrying to introduce bills designed to make it more difficult for ordinary people to vote. 

Voting Rights Protection and the Filibuster

Voter suppression legislation is presently the main business of Republican-controlled state legislatures. Stacey Abrams, who is the leading authority on voter suppression and how to counter it, appeared on the Rachel Maddow show last evening. She made clear that it’s critically important for Congress to pass voting rights protection laws. The House has already done so, but their bills can’t pass in the senate without first doing away with the “filibuster,” the requirement that passing legislation of this sort requires sixty votes in the senate rather than a simple majority. Tantalizingly, it takes only a majority vote to do away with the filibuster.

This is a great test of Biden and Congressional Democratic leaders. Can they convince two Democratic senators who have been reluctant to support doing away with the filibuster to reverse or sufficiently modify their positions so voting rights protection legislation can become law? Can they be made to understand that the fate of American democracy may depend upon it?

Guaranteed Minimum Income?

There should be a guaranteed minimum income, indexed for inflation, sent monthly to everyone who is eligible, enough to cover minimum basic needs, so no one is usually penniless. You’d have to be below the poverty level to qualify. Let’s say -– I’m just guessing –- 50 million people living in America would qualify. Let’s say the minimum guarantee is $12,000 a year ($1,000 / month). If you’re making $8,000, you only get $4,000. The cost of this program might average $10,000 per recipient per year –– $500 billion per year. 

The above figures may be way off. You’d need to have the Congressional Budget Office analyze it all and plug in the right numbers; then all you’d need is an enlightened Congress to implement it. Because the recipients are, by hypothesis, living hand to mouth –– spending every nickel they get ––  virtually all this money is pumped back into the economy directly and indirectly, increasing tax revenues by many tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions, of dollars (the multiplier effect). The balance can readily be supplied by having a more progressive tax system. (The present one was designed to please plutocrats).

It will be argued in opposition to such a program that it will cause a lot of people to sit on the couch and not look for jobs. Let them sit on a couch. If they are so dull and unambitious, they’re not going to contribute anything to the economy anyway. But this is a baseless worry. The vast majority of eligible  people would find it unbearably boring to sit on a couch. They will want to get a job in which they can lift themselves up to a level where they have some disposable income. They’ll be more likely to find that kind of job –– one in which they can contribute to the economy and begin to feel good about life –– if they’re not stressed out from wondering where their next meal is coming from.

How Light May Be Thrown on an Interesting Proposition

It looks quite likely that Trump will be indicted on several counts in Georgia as a result of his efforts to browbeat local officials into fabricating false election results in that state. It’s hard to see how a jury would convict him, because any Georgia jury is likely to contain at least one or two members of the Trump cult who would vote to acquit him regardless of how heavily the evidence weighs against him. Such a prosecution would be salutary nevertheless, casting light on the proposition that no one is above the law.

The Biggest Challenge –– Voting Rights Reform

Republicans control key state legislatures, but they can’t win control of Congress and the White House without pervasive gerrymandering and voter suppression laws targeted at likely Democratic voters. The right-wing dominated Supreme Court can almost certainly be counted on to be supportive of them in their efforts. Congress, which Democrats control by the slimmest of margins, could pass voting rights legislation that would thwart the Republican anti-democratic agenda, but only by eliminating the mechanism called the filibuster, which requires a 60-40 vote in the senate for voting rights reform to pass. Eliminating the filibuster would require only a majority vote, and Democrats could accomplish that if two Democratic senators, who have opposed eliminating the filibuster, can be persuaded that the fate of American democracy may turn on whether voting rights reform can pass and that this term of Congress may be the last one in which that will be possible.

Trump as a Prop for Advertising

Headline: “Trump sends cease-and-desist letter to GOP organizations to stop fundraising off his name.”

Apparently a major concern for Trump is that some money raised might be used to support Republicans who voted to impeach him. I hope Democrat organizations can still conduct “fundraising off his name,” as in, for example, “The Republican Party has become little more than a Trump cult.” 

Policies and Communication

The majority of working-class white people voted for Republican candidates in last fall’s election, even though policies of Democrats work to the advantage of this constituency far better than those of Republicans, which are largely tailored to appeal to the rich donor class. One trouble is that so much of working-class people’s intake of “news” comes from right-wing propagandistic sources such as Fox News and talk radio. Democrats have been losing the competition to get their message across. During the years of the great depression, FDR showed how to do it. Biden lacks FDR’s gifts as a communicator. It’s hard to see how this destructive imbalance can be reversed.

The Sad Truth about Republicans

Republicans in Congress have no significant policy proposals. Their entire strategy is to take advantage of every method available to them to obstruct and troll to keep the Biden Administration and Democratic-controlled Congress from accomplishing anything. Their idea is that if the Democrats can’t accomplish anything, they are less likely to be re-elected. 

Meanwhile, Republicans who control key state legislatures are relentlessly gerrymandering Congressional districts in order to increase the proportion of Republicans in Congress, regardless of popular will, and have introduced more than 200 bills crafted to suppress voter turnout of people likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

It didn’t used to be the case, but it is now: Republicans are willing to scrap American democracy in order to gain and retain power.

The Dr.  Seuss books Controversy

The Dr. Seuss estate discontinued publication and distribution of six  Dr. Seuss books because they contained racist images or themes. This event provided right-wing propagandists a pretext for trumpeting their favorite diversionary battle cries: Cancel culture! Censorship! Freedom destroyers. 

How about the freedom of authors and their representatives to cease publication and distribution of their books for whatever reason they like? There are still lots of Dr. Seuss books available to delight young readers and pre-readers. I haven’t seen the ones said to be racist, but I can understand that it’s not good to subject either white or black pre-schoolers to books that give the impression that blacks are inferior. In a recent column, the African American New York Times columnist Charles Blow recounted the effect such books had on him as a child.

Just as there is a Holocaust Museum, maybe there should be a White Supremacist Museum, where books like these would be exhibited. The historical record should be preserved and be accessible to the general public, but little kids shouldn’t be subjected to racist picture books, any more than grownups should be subjected to the sight of statues in public venues of racist politicians and generals who were bent on perpetuating slavery.

Time for a Wealth Tax

Elizabeth Warren, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show, again urged passage of a wealth tax. It’s astonishing to consider how little the super rich would be disadvantaged by giving up two percent of their wealth in excess of a fifty million dollars,  and three percent of their wealth in excess of a billion dollars, and what good could be accomplished by redirecting the amounts raised to where it’s desperately needed.

Republicans and centrist Democrats wrongly consider Elizabeth Warren to hold an extreme view. What’s extreme is the gap of wealth and income inequality in this country and the way it’s taken for granted.

The Threat

How it happened is a long story. That it happened is not in doubt. The Republican Party has become the Trump Party, which, as Robert Reich accurately states, is a “dangerous, deluded, authoritarian, and potentially violent faction that has no responsible role in a democracy.” 

Because of the filibuster, which two Democratic senators are reluctant to oppose, legislation protecting voting rights from assault by Republican-controlled state legislatures is blocked. If the Trump Party gains control of either the Senate or the House in next year’s elections, all progressive initiatives will be blocked. If the Trump Party gains the presidency in 2024, democracy itself will be blocked.

               

Weekend Headlines:

“With new mass detentions, every prominent Hong Kong activist is either in jail or exile.”

“The Republican Party is no longer committed to democracy.” 

“Myanmar security forces open fire on protesters, killing at least 18, according to U.N.”

“Militaries are getting better at overthrowing elected governments.”

As democracy is in peril, so is civilization.

True Believer

A recent letter to the editor of my local paper serves as a model of the true believer, an extreme example of what sustained exposure to right-wing  propagandists like the late Rush Limbaugh and Fox News star personalities can do to the human brain. The writer has become convinced that government is the root of all evil — not just the federal government, but all governments. 

Some letters in this vein are barely literate. This one exhibits excellent prose style and mastery of basic grammar. The author seems to be intelligent and well-educated, but that didn’t insulate her from nonsensical ideology. She states: “The governments have taken away every right that they can. They have forced the economy to the bottom limits of sustainability. . .  The abuse of power that these self-righteous nobodies (governors. mayors, council members, commissioners and of course know-nothing health department heads) is disgusting to say the least. It is way, way beyond time for us to take our country and our lives back. Why don’t we set a date of March 1?”

Take back our country? Wasn’t that what the rioters attempted on January 6th. They set their goal too low, aiming just at Congress. Government at every level must go –– and tomorrow, March 1st. Then what? That’s the question right-wing propagandists never come to grips with.

The CPAC Show

Watching clips from the CPAC conference, the annual gathering of right-wing politicians, held this year in Orlando, is a depressing experience. I saw Ted Cruz pacing back and forth, gesticulating as he ranted about his dedication to democracy, the Constitution, the people! Trump’s speech, in which he may be expected to reiterate the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him, is yet to come.

The whole lot of them have their sights set on ending democracy, ignoring the Constitution, and duping or excluding the people. As Jenifer Rubin commented in a Washington Post column yesterday, “The problem is that the GOP has transformed into a cult of the person who instigated the attack, fed propaganda to radicalize his party and refused to denounce white supremacists.” 

American Plutocracy

Robert Reich is a master of statistics. He uses them to illuminate that we are living in a plutocracy. Plutocrats have most of the money. As a general rule, plutocrats donate to Republican politicians, and Republican politicians vote to serve the interest of plutocrats, which for the most part is to get even richer. Republicans are aligned against the stimulus bill and raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a Facebook posting yesterday, Reich noted: “The 1.3 trillion wealth gain by America’s 660 billionaires since the pandemic began would pay for a stimulus check of $3,900 for every one of the 331 million people in the U.S. and the billionaires would be as rich as they were before the pandemic.” 

Even the billionaires would get $3,900 each! Those worth about four billion, for example, would each get about one-millionth richer than they were before their stimulus check arrived. Richer ones, worth about forty billion (much much less rich than Jeff Bezos), would only get only one-ten-millionth richer. Really, there’s  not much in it for them.

White Supremacists  

If white supremacists think that they are supreme, that they are superior to non-whites, why are they so fearful of them? Why do they feel so threatened? Could it be that they fear that they are not superior after all; that non-whites might out-compete them? Do they think so little of themselves that they need to protect themselves from non-whites? 

Let’s Do Something Right That Would Be Shameful Not To Do

A New York Times editorial this morning begins: “The United States allows more than 10 million American children to live in poverty, bereft of resources and opportunity.” This is a shocking indictment of our society. Cheers for the Times editorial board for endorsing Mitt Romney’s plan to come as close as we can to eliminating child poverty by having the Social Security Administration distribute adequate cash to impoverished families without requiring them to file income tax returns as a condition of eligibility.

Wouldn’t it be great if the present Congress could bring off such a shining accomplishment? Cost is not a problem. Rich people in this country are overflowing with money. It will barely dent their bank accounts to raise tax rates on them enough to pay for it. Those among them who have any sense of decency and care for the common good will welcome it. 

What the Republican Party Has Become

Republicans have decided that they can’t win elections in swing states and Congressional districts if they play by the rules. Instead of adopting policy positions and legislative proposals that might enable them to win playing by the rules, they have resorted to voter suppression and promoting Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen from him. Their behavior may not be prosecutable, but it’s criminal. As Robert Reich noted: “Any Republican member of Congress who refuses to admit Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election is helping incite violence against the United States.”

Like the elephant in the room, which is difficult to believe is real even though its presence encompasses a large segment of your field of vision, the Republican Party has become the party of the Big Lie. 

Democracy at Bay

American democracy just had what has aptly been called a near-death experience. China’s governing regime has become increasingly repressive and intolerant of dissent, choking freedom in Hong Kong and conducting massive human rights violations in treatment of minorities. India appears to be drifting toward becoming a Hindu nationalist state in which the large Muslim population is marginalized and repressed and free speech attenuated. What happened to the Enlightenment? We seem to be sliding back. Despotic rulers are stamping out democracy in many other countries as well, among them, lately in the news, Russia and Myanmar. And what happened to Arab Spring? 

Conservatism Defiled

The prominent “conservative” organization, C-Pac, has invited Trump to speak at their annual gathering. Trump can be expected to reiterate his big lie that the election was stolen from him. The C-Pac attendees can be expected to cheer.             

In her Washington Post column this morning, Jennifer Rubin quotes longtime impeccably conservative William Kristol: “Real, existing conservatism as it exists in America in 2020 is an accomplice to, an apologist for, and an enabler of Trump’s nativist, populist, unconservative, and illiberal authoritarianism.”

Unconservative conservatives dominate the Republican Party. They can not be accommodated. They need to be shunned, exposed, and voted out of office. As Rubin comments: “A right-wing, populist and authoritarian party should not be allowed to hold power. It has proved to be dangerous, racist and fundamentally un-American.”

Ted Cruz: So Smart, So Stupid

There is no doubt that Senator Ted Cruz (R. Texas) is very smart. He was an academic star in college and law school and has had a dazzling career. One might wonder, then, why he was so stupid as to take his family on an impromptu tropical vacation during a state-wide calamity in which millions of his fellow Texans were suffering from life-threatening, and in some cases life-taking, frigid weather, prolonged power outages, and water shortages. 

The reason is that Cruz is an extreme egoist. He can only think of his own needs and wants. He can probably solve intricate and difficult logic problems, but his brain has a defect that prevents him from thinking about the feelings of others, even when thinking about others would work to his own selfish political advantage!

Cruz is rich and smart and powerful, but in the most important ways he is severely disadvantaged.  

Joy Spreader

Life abounds with ironies. Senator Ted Cruz (R. Texas) flew to Cancun for a family vacation while millions of his fellow Texans were suffering from record-breaking cold, massive power failures, and water shortages, thereby giving people all across America reason to engage in euphoric mockery and gleeful condemnation, while improving the prospects of Democrats in The Lone Grid State. At the online store of former Minnesota Senator Al Franken, sales of “I hate Ted Cruz coffee mugs” soared in response to Cruz’s latest demonstration that he is a pox on the land and a pre-eminent jerk.

The Voting Rights Conflict

In the United States, it’s generally understood that the easier it is to vote, the better Democrats will do, and the harder it is to vote, the better Republicans will do. In the 2020 elections Democrats gained control of Congress by a very narrow margin. Republicans hope to take back control in the elections next year.

Republicans control the legislatures in most swing states, and they are trying to make it harder to vote by enacting restrictive legislation. Democrats in Congress would like to enact legislation making it easer to vote, countering Republican efforts at the state level, but to have such legislation pass, they need to eliminate the filibuster, which makes it necessary to have a supermajority in the senate to get any such legislation enacted. Unfortunately, at least two Democratic senators are opposed to ending the filibuster, so it looks like, by the time for next year’s elections, it will on balance be harder to vote in the United States, increasing the chances that the Republicans will take back control of Congress. 

Democracy at Bay

A shockingly large percentage of the American electorate is receptive to authoritarian rule. A headline in a recent dispatch I received from the Atlantic stated: “America’s next authoritarian will be much more competent.  . .  It won’t be easy to make the next Trumpist a one-term president.”

 Prominent Republican politicians who are very smart and highly educated but whose moral compass points in the same direction as a hyena’s  –– men like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley –– have surely been thinking: “If I had been in the White House, instead of Trump, by now I would be positioned to be president for life. 

 We need to strengthen the defenses of our democracy, and we may not have much time to do it.

On Reaching Ninety

When I was about twelve, my grandfather that I knew well and had seemed healthy died of pneumonia at the age of 84. Several others in the family had died at earlier ages. I reached a settled conclusion that the oldest I could live would be 84, and I probably wouldn’t make it that far. My mother said that one of her grandmothers had reached 91, but that women tended to live longer than men. In any case, it was something of a surprise to wake up today and consider that I’m 90, mobile, feel healthy, and can still type fast. What it takes, I guess, is to not wreck yourself, and especially, I regret to have to add, have had a lot of luck.

The Hall of Shame –– a Vision

I can imagine a great institution named The Museum of American History, perhaps commissioned a few decades from now to mark the three-hundred-year anniversary of the founding of the Republic. One wing, The Hall of Shame, would have a number of galleries, in one of which would be exhibited portraits or photographs of the 43 Republican senators who voted to acquit Trump in the just-concluded impeachment trial. Visitors would be able to watch a video narrated by prominent psychiatrists and historians in which they attempt to explain how the brains of these people became so corrupted that they lost all sense of decency and honor and were overwhelmed by ambition, greed, and resentment. Parents would be cautioned to use discretion in allowing children to look at some portraits, it having been established that post-traumatic stress disorder could be brought on by staring for more than a few seconds at faces like those of Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and others, whose inner hideousness so glaringly shines through.   

The Need for Illumination

Headline: “9/11 commision leaders call for bipartisan probe into Capitol attack.” 

The Trump tenure in office was a far worse tragedy than 9/11, among other reasons because it resulted in far more many deaths and misery (mostly from Trump’s Covid denials, his gross mismanagement, abrogation of responsibility, and misinformation campaigns), and culminating in his shameful acquittal in his second impeachment trial in the face of searing overwhelming evidence that he incited a hate-driven insurrection with the aim of converting the United States into a Putin-style autocracy. From the moment Trump came into national prominence, he and his allies have engaged in a relentless attempted demolition of truth itself. The whole ghastly business must be illuminated with sufficient brilliance to render it visible to all

Bad People / Good People

Why are some people so bad, possessing moral compasses that swing wildly in response to their blindly self-seeking impulses –– people like Lindsay Graham, for example, and a flood of others come to mind -– instead staying true to the magnetic force of rightness, honesty, and decency ––thankfully an equal or greater number of others, of whom I’ll take space to mention just one: Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis, who has opened an investigation into Trump’s pressure campaign after his election loss in that state. Interviewed by Rachel Maddow the other evening, without the slightest indication that she was trying to do so, Willis gave a lesson in how to be. “Since we’ve opened this,” she said, “we’ve gotten — my security has doubled. We’ve gotten a lot of comments. Interestingly enough, the comments are always racist, and it’s really just a waste of time and foolishness. It’s not going to stop me from doing my job, and I don’t think it’s an insult to remind me that I’m a black woman.”

The State of the Republican Party

In a Washington Post column this morning headlined, “Stop trying to save the GOP. It’s hopeless,” Jennifer Rubin noted that, among Republicans, there is a “fundamental division over whether the party should become a right-wing populist cult willing to subvert democracy to keep power.” 

Honorable Republicans need to withdraw from the Party and regroup. They will not find middle ground with the cultists.

A Promising Development in Georgia

Trump tried to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Biden’s victory in that state. The officials, who are Republicans, rightly rebuffed him. Now Georgia prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation to determine whether election interference crimes were committed. There is a quite good chance that Trump will be criminally prosecuted for felonious violations of Georgia law. Trump should not be given a pass for any of his civil or criminal misbehavior. His famous claim that if you’re a celebrity you can get away with anything should be resoundingly disproved.

The Enduring Tragedy of Trump

It’s sickening that all but a handful of Republican senators are virtually certain to vote to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial despite the overwhelming evidence that he committed a grave and reckless crime against our democracy, the malevolent effects of which will be felt for a long time.

Another Strange Thing about Our Times

Another strange thing about our times is that a lot of money is going into make-believe assets, most prominent of which is Bitcom. It’s make believe, but worth a lot and just went even a lot more up in value after Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, bought over a billion dollars worth of it, causing Mr. Musk to get even richer, as he surely knew he would. I’m reading a book that discusses such phenomena and may have more to say about it when I finish it.

The Trump Impeachment Trial

Headline: “Poll finds narrow majority of Americans favor convicting Trump”

A “narrow majority” instead of an “overwhelming majority” lays bare the truth of Stacey Abrams assertion in a Washington Post op-ed this morning that American democracy “faced a near-death experience.” The goal of those prosecuting Trump in the impeachment trial this week should be to illuminate the gravity of Trump’s moral depravity and educate the populace as to the threat that he and his enablers posed and still pose to our country –– to enlighten a great many more people that it is right, just, and important to convict Trump and, no less important, of the rightness of subsequent criminal prosecution. 

Costs of Progress: an example

Headline: “Invasive Insects and Diseases Are Killing Our Forests.” 

We have so many problems in the world that some of the most important ones escape our attention. Technology advances relentlessly, but at much greater cost than we appreciate.

Convicting Insurrectionists

I read that the grinning insurrectionist who posed with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk has pleaded not guilty. If, as seems to be the case, about a third of the people in the U.S. were in favor of overturning the election and converting our country into an authoritarian regime led by a sociopath, then is it not likely that the average jury of twelve citizens will contain at least one such ideologue willing to ignore clear evidence of guilt of anyone involved in the January 6th outrage at the Capitol? That surely is what the defendants’s lawyer is counting on. 

The Compromised Senate

U.S. senators once liked to call their institution “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” That sounds like a sick joke, given the behavior of the vast majority of Republican senators and the bizarre senate rules, most particularly the “filibuster,” which requires sixty (out of a hundred) senators to approve most pieces of legislation. Thanks to the weird process of “reconciliation,’’ the senate passed the desperately needed pandemic relief package last night on a 51-50 party-line vote. Regrettably, reconciliation can’t be used for legislation aimed at curbing voter suppression by state legislatures. Republicans can still and surely will block such remedial measures because at least two Democratic senators are opposed to eliminating the filibuster.   

Poverty and Impoverished Thinking

In a New York Times article yesterday, Nicholas Kristof commented that the U.S. has one of highest rates of child poverty in the advanced world and that 12 million American kids live in households that lack food. Yet the ten “moderate” Republican senators urging Biden to cooperate with Republicans in scaling back proposed pandemic relief want him to drop the provisions targeted at reducing child poverty. 

It’s hard to comprehend the callousness of this kind of thinking, the product of the same minds that rammed through the lavish tax cuts and tax breaks for the rich and especially the super rich in 2017.

Conviction is Certain

In a Washington Post column yesterday, Jennifer Rubin pointed out that, in Trump’s impeachment trial, Republican senators will either vote to convict Trump for having incited an insurrection or, by acquitting him, convict themselves of putting their perceived selfish interests ahead of their duty defend the Constitution and our democracy.

Right now, it looks like more than 40 senators will be convicted. The sentence imposed upon them will be ignominy in the history books. 

The Ominous Political Outlook, Continued

Demographic trends are such that political scientist Norman Ornstein says that, within about 20 years, 70% of Americans will live in 15 states, resulting in the other 30% being able to choose 70 senators, and that the 30% “will be older, whiter, more rural and more male {i.e. dominantly Republican voters} than the 70%.” This trend, as well as the Republican legislatures-driven voter suppression trend and the gerrymandering trend, is in the direction of one party minority rule. Our country survived efforts by Trump and his enablers to kill American democracy with a single blow, but it’s in danger of dying a slow death.

The Ominous Political Outlook

Republicans control key swing states legislatures and are expected to gerrymander districts in order to give themselves a decisive advantage in Congressional races in 2022, and with the aid of other voting suppression measures flip the House of Representatives to Republican control. The Supreme Court should have reined in this blatantly anti-democratic practice, but in one of their more shameful decisions in recent years (another being their trashing of the Voting Righs Act) the right-wing majority of justices washed their hands of the matter. Democrats control the White House and, for the moment hold paper-thin majorities in Congress, but American democracy remains very much on the defensive. 

Crises to Come: The China Threat

Trump is out of power (To quote Nancy Pelosi on this subject: “Thank God.”), but multiple tremendous problems remain, for example, the likelihood of Chineses aggression. See China expert Nicholas Kristof’s column in the current online New York Times. Kristof notes, “Xi {the Chinese premiere} is an overconfident, risk-taking bully who believes that the United States is in decline.” That’s a recipe for trouble. 

The Republican Party, Rename It What You Will

Except for a few protesting voices, the Republican Party has become the Trumpian Party, or the Authoritarian Party, or the Nihilistic Party, or whatever you want to call it that far more accurately describes it than the term that used to be associated with it –– conservative.

Transition to Lower or Zero Emission Energy Sources

To obtain the requisite support among those most directly affected and in the interest of fairness, no worker whose job is lost in the urgently needed transition to lower or zero emission energy sources should be hurt financially. To give a rough example: coal miners whose plants are shut down should be subsidized to the extent necessary to train and place them, including moving expenses, if necessary, in more socially responsible lines of work. This will be costly, but it will be preserve the purchasing power of those affected, which will have the tendency of stimulating the economy and raising tax revenues, and the remaining shortfall can comfortably be made up by more progressive taxation, as to which reversing the 2017 tax cuts and tax breaks for the rich and especially the super rich would be just the beginning.

Alas, the above is an aspirational policy proposal, not something that is possible given the psychic state of Republicans in Congress.

Consequences 

Headline: “U.S. issues rare warning about potential violence by domestic extremists.” 

It would have been wonderful if, as I once dreamed could be possible, Biden’s election and Democrats taking control of the senate would clear the air. This was not to happen. Republicans have polluted the air further, exacerbating all our problems, and creating new ones by almost uniformly banding together in condoning Trump’s incitement of insurrection and promotion of the Big Lie that Biden’s election was illegitimate.

What Trump’s Impeachment Trial Will Reveal, Continued

It will reveal just how morally sick this nation is. You can think of the trial as a moral health meter. There are 100 senators. Moral health of the nation is measured by the number of senators voting to convict Trump of the high crime and misdemeanor which is the subject of impeachment:

morally very healthy-                              91 -100

moderately morally healthy-                   79 – 90

just barely morally healthy-                    67 – 78

disturbingly morally unhealthy-             55 – 66

very dangerously morally unhealthy-  under 55

Judging by yesterday’s vote over whether the Constitution permits such a trial even though the person accused is no longer in office –- it appears that the nation is disturbingly morally unhealthy, and nearly very dangerously morally unhealthy. The Republican Party has become the authoritarian party. 

What Trump’s Impeachment Trial Will Reveal

The impeachment trial of Trump, which is scheduled to begin two weeks from now, won’t reveal whether or not Trump is guilty. The publically displayed evidence of his impeachable offense is overwhelming.  What the trial will reveal, as to each senator, is whether he or she is something more than a cynical morally deficient politician. 

Republican Obstructionism 

Republicans appear to be reverting to their strategy that worked during the Obama years: Obstruct Biden’s initiatives to address the multiple crises facing our country, and voters will decide that Democratic leadership can’t work.

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has it right: “We should give Senate Republicans a very short amount of time to signal if they want to be partners in moving the country forward, or if they intend to be obstructionists. . .  and the early signaling is that they are reverting to their obstructionist mode.”

Worth Watching / Listening To

Amanda Gordon reading her Inauguration Poem, “The Hill We Climb,” which I accessed yesterday courtesy of Ted Talks, inspiring people of good will to overcome the forces of cynicism, nihilism, mean-spiritedness, and resentment.

The Watchword for Our Time

After Trump was elected president in 2016, the esteemed journalist Christiane Amanpour wrote, “Fight against the normalization of the unacceptable.” When I read this, I decided that this would be my watchword until Trump is out of office. Unfortunately, a great many people promoted, acquiesced in, or tolerated the unacceptable, with tragic results for our country.  

After Biden was inaugurated as president this past week, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote, “There is no forgiveness without truth, no ‘unity’ without justice.” When I read this, I decided that this will be my watchword until truth and justice prevail.

Getting Rid of  Rot

Rot will spread if you cover it up instead of rooting it out. All those, from Trump on down, who instigated, aided, or abetted the January 6th insurrection should be investigated and, if found probably culpable, prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as well as being subject to civil liability and public shame.

Concerning Trump in particular, Nancy Pelosi put it well yesterday:  “Just because [Trump is] now gone –– thank God –– you don’t say to a president, do what ever you want in your last months –– you’re going to get a ‘Get Out of Jail Card’ free because people think we should make ‘nice, nice’.”

The Clock Is Ticking

So says the astute political analyst Ezra Klein in a New York Times op-ed this morning. He’s referring to the tendency of mid-presidential term cycles to produce a reaction. This is what happened in the 2010 election, when the Democrats’s two-year grip on the House and Senate abruptly ended in what president Obama called a shellacking. Today, Democratic dominance in the House and Senate is much thinner than it was when Obama was elected 2008. A return to Trumpism-McConnellism two years from now, even without Trump himself, would be a catastrophe for the nation. Klein rightly says the Democrats will have to accomplish a lot, and their accomplishments must be clearly visible to the electorate, and, despite the filibuster-constraint in the senate, they’ve got less than two years to do it. 

Eviction of Trump from the White House Day

It should be declared a national holiday, except we already have too many of them this time of year, and there’s so much work to do! The United States is like a country that just won a war of terrible attrition, or like a patient recovering from a terrible disease, the aftereffects of which will be felt for a long time. Still, I feel that the happiness index is rising.  It’s not naive to be hopeful.

Split in the Republican Party

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin sets forth an important principle: “There is no forgiveness without truth, no ‘unity’ without justice.”  She has pointed out that the split in the Republican Party is so profound that there no longer is a Republican Party. There are Trump Party adherents and a non-Trump Republican Party. 

The former, comprising those who believe or cynically profess to believe Trump’s big lie that he won the election and won it in a landslide, have helped construct or have adopted a false alternative reality as a political tool to retain or gain power. Honorable Republicans should mount primary campaigns against those among them who hold elective office. They should be shunned, and their lies should be discredited as fast as they are produced.

Are Any Having Afterthoughts?

Is it beginning to sink in on some of the people who stormed the capitol and delayed Congress for a few hours from certifying that Biden was the president-elect that there wasn’t anything they could have accomplished politically no matter what happened while they were in the halls of Congress grinning and glaring with their flags and costumes and guns? 

Are some of them beginning to think it maybe wasn’t such a good idea? And of all the politicians who have gone along with Trump’s Big Lie that he actually won the election –– in fact won it in a landslide––is it dawning on any that repeating this Big Lie is no way to live their lives? Are any having afterthoughts?

Demons of Our Nature

Lincoln tried to bring out the better angels of our nature, and had limited success. Trump tried to bring out the worst demons of our nature, and had great success. Trump leaves in disgrace after his failed attempt to replace American democracy with autocratic rule; yet the vast majority of Republicans still support him. That only 10 of the 221 Republican members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach him for inciting an insurrection reveals that our country is shot through with moral rot. It will be a long slog trying to clean it out, but that is our task in the days, weeks, and months, and years ahead.

Trump’s Last Days

Trump will be out of the White House for good in less than a 100 hours. I read that he will leave Washington early Wednesday morning from Edwards Air Force Base, presumably bound for his residence in Florida. Word is that he has summoned a military band for the occasion. Presumably it will play “Hail to the Chief” as he climbs the ramp to board the plane.

Between now and then, he can be expected to pardon his family members and more fellow criminals who have demonstrated sufficient fealty to him. He’s not likely to pardon himself, because odds are that he’s been advised that doing so would more likely hurt him than help him. There’s a chance he will resign before his term expires in hopes that Pence will pardon him, but would Pence find it in his own interest to do so? I think not. Is there any chance that Biden would pardon Trump. No, because it would be unpardonable for him to do so. 

The Challenge for Republicans 

A substantial percentage of Republicans in Congress belong to what Jennifer Rubin aptly calls the Sedition Caucus, a malevolent group of politicians who, by subscribing to Trump’s Big Lie that he won the election and failing to speak the truth have demonstrated their willingness to trash American democracy and allow our country to fall under autocratic rule. Rubin lists questions that should be put to these characters and repeated relentlessly. They should not be allowed to say anything else until they answer them. They should not be allowed to hide behind their equivocations and diversions. They should be exposed in a bright light for what they are: frauds and failures, rotten to the core. The Republican Party can revive and thrive, but only if it can shed itself of sociopaths that have degraded it.

Republicans

It’s gratifying that ten Republican members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump, but lamentable that a very large majority of Republicans in Congress choose to cling to his coattails in the face of overwhelming evidence in plain view that he induced a mob to carry out an insurrection, occupy and desecrate the Capitol, interfere with the work of Congress, cause five deaths and many injuries, alarm and dismay America’s friends, and delight its enemies.

Will the Republican Party ever regain its status as an honorable, responsible party? Not while most of its elected representatives are so morally deficient that they pander to the deluded followers of a vile destructive demagogue. 

The Truth about the Big Lie

Trump and his enablers repeated and magnified his Big Lie that the election was stolen so persistently and with such fervor that a substantial percentage of the population came to think it was true or was probably true, or if they were more knowledgeable and knew better but were sufficiently cynical, immoral, and ambitious, that subscribing to it and promoting it would work to their own political advantage. In the wake of Trump’s incitement of insurrection, the Big Lie has become less effective in obscuring the truth. Let’s hope that those promoting it, from Trump on down, will be seen by increasingly large numbers of people as what they are, Big Liars.

Civil War II

It seems that the United States has become immersed in a new civil war, except that instead of opposing factions being heavily concentrated in particular areas of the country, like  the North and the South, the belligerents are widely dispersed geographically. Opposing forces may be housed only a few blocks away, or even next door. It should be easy to choose which side to be on –– the conflict is between truth and good will on one side and falsity and malevolent ideology on the other.

The Effectiveness of Big Lies

An article in yesterday’s New York Times about political lying, its long lineage, and its effectiveness illuminates Trump’s mode of operation. I had wondered at how he not only falsely claims to have won the election, but to have won in a landslide and at least once to have won every state! Wouldn’t it be more credible if he claimed that recounts and audits and investigations of fraud would show that he won? That’s certainly a more reasonable claim than saying that not only did he win, but his victory was a landslide. More reasonable, yes, but more persuasive, not necessarily. It’s the big lie, magnified far out of proportion and relentlessly repeated that seems likely to sway the minds of many people: Surely he must have at least edged out a victory if he says it was a landslide! The readiness of so many people to be swayed by relentless reiteration of big lies is a lamentably common characteristic of our beleaguered species.

The Situation

Domestic terrorists are threatening renewed attacks on the orderly processes of government. There is no reason to believe that Trump and his newly installed lackeys in the Defense Department and the Pentagon will provide needed security. Domestic terrorists threatened Lincoln’s life prior to his inauguration, and his route was altered to avoid them. Once again, 160 years later, unconventional precautions must be taken to protect our democracy from armed extremists who relish any damage they can inflict on it. 

Meanwhile, articles of impeachment have been drafted. The requisite evidence, in the form of Trump’s words and behavior and their consequences, is in plain view. The House should impeach him tomorrow. If the senate could function responsibly, it would try, convict, and remove him the same day.

Impeach Trump?

Senate Majority Leader McConnell, who in our lamentably imperfect democracy has far more power than he should, says that if the House impeaches Trump, he will hold up the trial in the senate until after Trump has left office January 20th. The House should impeach Trump anyway. Prosecute criminal acts. The law and truth must prevail. 

It’s Time for Justice to Prevail

This is not a time for forgiveness and trying to repair divisiveness in our country. America’s problem isn’t with decent and good-hearted people with opposing views or with misguided citizens who have gone astray. It’s with cynical power-craving politicians and with thugs, bullies, and racists who are perfect replicas of the thugs, bullies, and racists that propelled Hitler to power almost a century ago. 

The only way to deal with this sort of collective menace is to act with unshakeable resolve to bring malefactors to justice. Michael Moore puts it well: “Every one of these terrorists must be rounded up, arrested and tried. No exceptions. No mercy. If these actions don’t have consequences, we will be living with this terrorism for years, decades.” Civil actions should be brought against them for the damage they did as well. 

Yesterday 

The insurrection yesterday was an exhibition of felonious behavior on the part of Trump, his allies, and his followers. Bargains with the devil don’t work out. The election of two Georgia Democrats to the senate, giving Democrats control of both houses of Congress, thin as it is, is a cause for joy. A lot more punches will be thrown at American democracy, but for the moment it’s off the ropes.

Our Somber Future

It’s a cause for relief, if not wild celebration, if, as appears likely as this is written, Democrats won both senate races in Georgia, thereby securing a less than razor-thin majority in the senate (50-50 with Vice-President Kamala Harris breaking tie votes on behalf of the Democrats). But Trump leaves behind him incalculable moral and institutional wreckage. As Diana Lithwick notes in a powerful and brilliantly written article in Slate this morning “leadership by distortion, untruth, and nihilism will be the new normal for some substantial portion of the GOP.” 

A Big Red Flag on the Road Ahead

An appalling number of Republican members of Congress have jumped on the authoritarian bandwagon. They want to control the government of the United States, and they don’t mind destroying our democracy in the process. Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent quotes Alexander Keyssar, whom he says is the leading  historian of U.S. democracy, on the implications of this development. Keyssar finds it “deeply disturbing.” In a future close election, Sargent asks, “What’s to stop a Republican-controlled Senate and House from refusing to count a victorious Democratic presidential candidate’s electors from numerous close states?”

Trump’s Descent into Unplumed Depths

Yesterday, Trump spiraled into all-out Mafia boss mode in an hour-long phone call to Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, importuning and threatening him if he did not “find” enough votes to reverse the presidential election outcome in that state. Trump’s harangue, a recording of which has been made available, amounts to extortion, was an impeachable offense, and violated multiple criminal federal and state laws. 

Trump is armed and dangerous. Members of Congress still supporting him in his mad attempt to pull off a coup have shown themselves unfit to hold office. They deserve contempt and nothing else.

Bad People: A Case Study

On Wednesday, January 6th, twelve Republican senators are poised to challenge certification of Biden’s victory in the election. Robert Reich rightly describes their behavior as seditious. They hold positions of great power. Yet they lack basic decency. They are living embodiments of moral rot. 

Showdown

The classic Western movie features a showdown between the good guys and the bad guys. High Noon, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, is probably the most classic of the classics in this genre. Wednesday January 6th we’ll see a showdown in Washington, as the most Trumpian of the Trumpians in Congress force a prolonged mock debate that may last as long as two or three days, in which they try to create the impression that Joe Biden’s election should be reversed because of fraud and election irregularities, which about sixty lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies have frivolously alleged, eventuating in all of them being withdrawn, sidelined,  or thrown out of court. Accompanying this baleful charade in Congress, a showdown in the streets will take place featuring the band of thugs who call themselves “The Proud Boys,” and were summoned by Trump to produce a big enough riot to give him a pretext for proclaiming martial law. The goal is to destroy our Constitutional democracy and replace it with one-party authoritarian rule, or, failing that, to fool as many people as possible into thinking that Biden is not, or may be not, a legitimate president. 

Those participating in this project may never be convicted of crimes, but they will be remembered in history as the bad guys of the worst sort.  It’s a tragedy of our times that their conduct will occur  in the realm of reality. In a rational world it would be confined  to where it belongs –- the plot of a pathetically bad grade B Hollywood film.    

Welcome 2021

Welcome 2021. You don’t look like you’ll be a great year, but you should have no trouble being a big improvement over your predecessor.

To everyone else: Happy New Year, Happy forthcoming Martin Luther King Day, and Happy forthcoming Eviction of Trump from the White House Day. There are a lot of things to hope for this year, and it’s reasonable to hope for a lot of them.

Malefactors

Headline: “Sen. Hawley {R. Missouri} announces he will contest certification of electoral college vote.” 

Neither Senator Hawley nor any other Trump-supporting politician in Congress believes that Biden won the election because of voting fraud. They know there is no chance of overturning the election. Their purpose is to create a cloud of doubt in the public mind about the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency. They will keep doing this during Biden’s term in office. This is their substitute for putting forth constructive policy agendas. It’s behavior that reveals a moral sickness among these people as virulent and damaging as the Covid-19 virus. In service to their authoritarian ambitions they have chosen to devote themselves to spreading a pathogen composed of falsehoods, for which unfortunately there is no vaccine. 

Reading Novels

Harold Bloom, who taught at Yale for many years and died this year at the age of 90, was a literary genius. He may have read more novels, plays, and poems than anyone who ever lived. He could recite from memory more literary works than most of us have read. What I presume was his final book, just published last month, is titled The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread. In it, he lists and discusses 48 great novels. I’ve read 12 of them. I was chagrined to note that I had started to read and gave up on eight on his list of perhaps greatest novels of all time and that I can’t remember a blooming thing about several that I read all the way through. I plan to read a couple on Bloom’s list that I never began and a couple that I started but didn’t finish, including Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which I’ve started and not finished more than any other. This time I’m not going to expect that the characters in it will actually get to the lighthouse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Safeguarding Our Democracy

The past few years have exposed weaknesses in the way our government is structured that render it vulnerable to enormous damage when a sociopath gains one the most powerful positions in our government.  Biden should create a commission to develop recommendations for reforms and safeguards that would protect our democracy against gross abuses of power. 

On the Path to Plutocracy

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne listed some things we’ve learned from having lived through 2020, among them that “while millions of Americans suffered economically, a significant part of our citizenry — particularly those with large stock holdings — got richer.” Income and wealth inequality, already an obscene ratio a year ago, significantly worsened in 2020. It will be a great blessing if we can reverse this trend, and a great tragedy if it continues.

An Interesting Genre of Books

I wonder if there’s a name for the genre of books comprising first-person accounts by a relatively “ordinary” people of their time spent with a famous person. I just finished reading a book in this genre by Jay Parini, a novelist and poet I’d never heard of, titled Borges and Me: An Encounter. (Through an odd concatenation of circumstances, while still a graduate student, around 1970 or thereabouts, Parini spent about a week with Borges, who at that time was an elderly, blind, world-famous, Argentinian literary legend.) Parini’s account made for entertaining reading. I’d never heard of Deidre Bair, either, but I’ve now started reading her book Parisian Lives, an account of her time spent with Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir. Reading books like this can be like looking in on the private everyday activities of  unusually interesting people, leading to seeing them in a new light.

Merry Christmas to All

Christmas is a sacred day in in the Christian calendar.  Though I am not a Christian, I celebrate it  nonetheless. The spirit of Christmas is for everyone for every day.

A Christmas Message

As is often the case, among all the New York Times and Washington Post columnists, Jennifer Rubin said it best this morning: “As bad as 2020 was, we muddled through and have reason to hope for a safer and saner 2021. For all who are celebrating, I wish you a safe and joyous Christmas.”

How American Democracy Works

Headline: “Tucked into stimulus bill: $110 billion in special-interest tax giveaways”

Message: “Our trade / industrial association / mega company funds your political campaigns and keeps you in office. It would be a shame if anything happened to that revenue stream. Don’t worry. We’ll protect it, but we need you to do us a favor.”

Definition: Protection Money:”money that criminals take from people in exchange for agreeing not to hurt them or damage their business”

The Stimulus Deal and the Three-Martini Lunch

Apparently one of the non-negotiable requirements of Republicans in forging the stimulus package this weekend was what has been called the three-martini lunch, referring their insistence on amending the Internal Revenue Code to allow a 100% business deduction for the cost of meals, including alcoholic beverages, at which business is discussed rather than the 50% deduction that has been permitted for many years. 

I once had occasion to look up the language of this provision in the Code and, as I recall, to qualify for the deduction, discussion at the meal didn’t have to be fully devoted to business matters, or even substantially devoted to business matters, or even significantly devoted to business matters. A two-hour long lunch including three martinis would be 50% deductible as long as it included at least some discussion of business. Now the cost of such a lunch will be 100% deductible. The argument for amending the Code to provide for such an egregiously regressive tax break, was that it will help the restaurant industry. If the government wants to help the restaurant industry it would be vastly more efficient to provide it with targeted subsidies. The insistence of Republicans on subsidizing three-martini lunches demonstrates that, as Jennifer Rubin put it in one of her Washington Post columns yesterday, they are “apparently more interested in grabbing stray goodies for the donor class than in helping the country fend off a full-fledged recession.” 

The Stimulus Deal

Putting together a minimal stimulus deal and authorizing enough funding so the government won’t have to “shut down” for a while should have been a simple and uncontroversial task for Congress to conclude before adjourning for holiday break, but given the extremist tendencies of Republicans in Congress, this unremarkable accomplishment was elevated into a great breakthrough in constructive government and bi-partisanship. 

It’s flawed and short of what is needed. Yet it struck a happy note and injected hope into the collective consciousness and seems likely to improve the country’s mood at the end of this doleful year.

America’s Problem with Trump’s Putin Problem

New York Times News item: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday it was clear that Russia was behind the widespread hacking of government systems that officials this week called a grave risk to the security of the United States.” Trump had said nothing about this serious threat to national security. After hearing what Pompeo said, Trump tried to downplay it and, true to form, he claimed that China might be the culprit. As has been the case throughout his term in office, Trump continues to act in a way that suggests that Putin keeps him on a short leash. Thirty-one more days of Trump. Thirty-one too many. 

The Fragility of American Democracy

One Hundred and twenty-six Republican members of the House of Representatives, several Republican senators, and the Republican attorneys general of eighteen states joined in, or backed, Trump’s attempt to get the Supreme Court to overturn the election for no reason other than power-grabbing desire, and a large percentage of other Republicans holding public office have demonstrated that they would be have been willing to join in this enterprise if it had had any chance of success. This turn of events reveals that, although American democracy is for the most part still intact, it remains vulnerable to succumbing to autocratic rule, a calamity that may have been avoided this election cycle only because, as Michael Gerson put it in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, “Trump combines the ambitions of a despot with the strategic planning and operational competence of a hamster.”

My Gloss on Jennifer Rubin’s Prescription (Washington Post 12-17-2020) for a Sane 2021

    Don’t refer to or quote Trump. Let him fade into oblivion.

  1. Don’t try to understand people divorced from reality. If you must interact with them, deal with them pragmatically.
  2. Work to improve government at state and local levels. 
  3. Work with reasonable Republicans to forge coalitions. There aren’t many of them, but they can be of critical help with regard to some issues.
  4. Work to repair the voting rights act and counter voter suppression wherever possible. 

 

Poitical Sectarianism and the Cure for It.

New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall wrote yesterday about a baleful phenomenon, “political sectarianism,” which is said to have three basic ingredients, “the tendency to view opposing partisans as essentially different or alien to oneself; aversion — the tendency to dislike and distrust opposing partisans; and moralization — the tendency to view opposing partisans as iniquitous.”

Edsall doesn’t say that the cure for this condition is for morally deficient characters, like the 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives and the 18 states attorneys general, those Republican U.S. senators and their media confederates, and a lot of others who have endorsed Trump’s destructive and totally phony claims that the election was rigged against him, thereby betraying and undermining our democracy, stop being different from and alien to decent responsible people of good will, stop being dislikable and untrustworthy, and stop being patently immoral and iniquitous. 

Building Bulwarks to Defend Democracy

Much has been written about the tremendous challenges facing the incoming administration. Perhaps the most important of these is setting place institutional safeguards that would prevent a future president from converting our country from a democracy to an autocracy, something Trump and his allies tried but failed to do.

Thinking of our democracy as a fortress, bulwarks need to be set in place. Weak points in the wall must be shored up. I’ve seen some good proposals to this end. Implementing  them should be top priority.

The Effect of Reality Seeping into the Disinformation Bubble  

The electoral college functioned properly yesterday, confirming Joe Biden as president-elect. This development convinced even Vladimir Putin, causing him to congratulate Biden on his victory. It had no effect on Trump, however. He continues to claim that he was the real winner. Has anyone in history persevered to such a degree in repeating a big lie in the face of so much contrary evidence?

It seems likely that Trump will keep proclaiming himself to be the rightful president for the rest of his life. As reality seeps into the disinformation bubble, increasing numbers of his faithful supporters will begin to wonder whether that really is the case.

Will More than a Handful of Republicans To Do the Right Thing?

Today, the electoral college will confirm Biden’s decisive victory in the election. Today is yet another appropriate day for Trump to graciously concede that Biden won and to offer full support in the transition process. We know that Trump won’t do this, because he is an externe narcissistic sociopath without a shred of respect for our Constitutional form of government.

Today is also the last chance for the overwhelming majority of Republican members of Congress to show that they are not sociopaths too; that they they have enough honesty, decency, and fidelity to their oath of office to forfeit support from the aspiring autocrat in the White House and the large block of voters accurately referred to as the Trump cult. Will a few more than a handful of them do the right thing by acknowledging that Biden won the election and that Trump should acknowledge it?

This Other Pandemic

Headline: “Tensions flare in D.C. as thousands gather for pro-Trump demonstrations.” Follow-up headline: “Multiple people stabbed after thousands gather for pro-Trump protests in Washington.” 

What motivates these people, so reminiscent of the thuggish characters who rallied around and idolized Hitler during the years when he clawed his way to power? And what motivated those 18 state attorneys general and more than half of the Republican members of the House of Representatives to pursue their baseless and shameful petition to the Supreme Court seeking its complicity in a project to overturn the election and bring American democracy to an end? 

It’s as if, no less virulent than Covid-19, a virus infecting the brain is raging ithroughout the land. No vaccine  can end this other pandemic. It will take steadfastness, firmness, wisdom, and equanimity to manage it until it has run its course. 

The Autocracy Party (formerly known as, and still called, the Republican Party)

Remarks of Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) yesterday on the floor of the senate: “Right now, the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our of country is underway. Those who are pushing to make Donald Trump President, are engaged in a treachery against their nation.”

It’s hard to believe this has happened. The Republican Party has become the Autocracy Party. Most of its members and adherents have decided that they want to replace our Constitutional democracy with one-party rule autocratic rule like that existing in Russia and more recently in Hungary and Poland.

To this end, Republicans may be expected to obstruct and undermine the administration of Joe Biden, which will begin on January 20th, and work in the fashion of aspiring despots to achieve their goal in the coming years.

Life in Surreal Land

 

The Petition to Convert the United States into an Autocracy

Attorneys general of 18 states and a majority of Republican members of the House of Representatives signed on to or supported a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to overturn the election results of four swing states that went for Biden, not because any of them think this shameful exhibition has merit, but because they are prisoners of the Trump cult, which controls the Republican Party.

Biden Errs

Biden has been doing almost everything right in the face of Trump’s criminal obstructionism, but he erred in picking recently retired General LLoyd Austin for secretary of defense. Austin is a good man, but clearly not the best choice. Confirming him will require a permissible, but awkward, waiver of the statute that discourages appointment of a secretary of defense who has not been a civilian for at least seven years. I suspect that Biden’s desire to install an African American in one of the most important cabinet posts swayed his judgment. Appointing Austin was asking for trouble, and Biden has more than enough trouble already, with a lot more to coming down the road. Let’s hope his pick for the critically important post of attorney general is perfect.

Georgia on My Mind

The fate of the nation may depend on the outcome of the dual senatorial races in Georgia January 5th. Unless both Democratic candidate win, thereby flipping (barely) control of the senate, (to which I arbitrarily assign a 25% probability), Republicans will block progress and blame lack of progress on Biden’s poor leadership.  

Trump’s Legacy

I’ve read a sampling of op-ed pieces, letters, and analyses trying to explain why over 70 million people voted for Trump. None of them I’ve seen acknowledge that Trump is manifestly a dangerous, destructive, demagogic sociopath. Supporting Trump is supporting nihilism. As Peter Wehner, writing for The Atlantic, notes, Trump will leave behind “a nihilistic political culture, one that is tribalistic, distrustful, and sometimes delusional, swimming in conspiracy theories.”

The Case for Trump:

There is none. Just from watching Trump speak or from reading his tweets it should be glaringly evident to anyone that he is a deranged and dangerous criminal. Why do nearly all Republican politicians either support him overtly or fail to condemn his rabid behavior? In her Washington Post column yesterday, Jennifer Rubin correctly observed, “No longer animated by a positive vision or policy ideas, the GOP is now simply a cauldron of writhing resentment and paranoia — a party that survives by spinning a web of lies and terrifying its own voters.”

Trumpism’s Future Life

In an astute and sobering op-ed in this morning’s online Washington Post, Yale history professor Beverly Gage explains that: “While the Trump presidency will soon be over, the history of Trumpism is just beginning.”

I’m in a bit of a rush this morning and won’t comment further except to say that it’s a piece worth reading.

A Troubled Nation

News Item (Washington Post): “Out of 249 Republicans in the House and Senate, 222 would not say who won the election, largely hiding from answering questions about President Trump’s loss.”

Trump’s claims that the election results are fraudulent and that he actually won the election have been shown to be false not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond a shadow of doubt. Every member of Congress knows this. The above poll didn’t measure anything about the election, but it measured with striking precision the incidence of moral deficiency among Republican members of Congress. We live in a deeply troubled nation.

The Georgia Senate Runoff Races

The November 3 election results preserved Republican hopes of converting the U.S. into a one-party- (theirs) governed country.  Unless the two Democratic candidates can win the special election on January 5th, the Mitch McConnell-led U.S. senate will block progressive legislation and probably key judicial appointments, because McConnell’s primary aim is to make the Biden administration look weak and ineffective.

Normally, there would be no chance that Georgians would elect two Democratic senators, but the two Republican candidates are both appalling character even by the standards of their own morally derelict party, and some Republican voters won’t bother going to the polls because Trump has told them that elections are rigged. 

I’ll still be surprised if even one of the Democratic candidates wins,. 

Insufficiently Corrupt 

Trump thought that, even if he lost the election, he could get loyalists he appointed to “find” that Biden’s victory was obtained by fraud. Corrupt lawyers, like Trump’s chief stooge, Rudy Giuliani, would bring lawsuits in key states, and corrupt judges Trump had appointed would uphold them. Trump surely thought that Attorney General William Barr, who got his job by convincing Trump that he would support his authoritarian ambitions, would support Trump’s baseless claims, and up until very recently, Barr gave every evidence that Trump could count on him.

Trump’s plan might have worked if Biden’s margin of victory had been narrow enough. (As former U.N. Ambassador in the Obama Administration Susan Rice noted, “American democracy had a near-death experience.”) But Biden won decisively, and no evidence of fraud could be found that Trump’s lawyers could cite. The result was that only Trump’s most zealous acolytes and deluded followers (of whom tragically there are tens of millions) continued to support his outrageous and baseless claims. 

Now Barr has acknowledged that there is no reason to doubt the election results. Trump has learned to his dismay that even if Barr and some of the judges Trump appointed and some of the key election officials are corrupt, they are insufficiently corrupt to try to keep him in office.

Prospects

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say that this is a strange time: The pandemic is raging, the aspiring autocrat in the White House is raging, fifty million or more Americans appear to be living in an information bubble, the Republican party is controlled by morally compromised politicians who have the power to block needed remedial legislation; but it’s not naive to be hopeful. Some months ago Jennifer Rubin wrote in one of her Washington Post columns that what’s needed in our government is not revolution but fumigation. I think, metaphorically, if not physically, the air will be a lot better to breathe after January 20th.

The Con Artist Who Puts Other Con Artists to Shame

I read that Trump has raised $150,000,000 for his “Stop the Steal of the Election” campaign,  It occurred to me that if Huckleberry Finn had been required reading for graduation from every high school, instead of being banned or shoved aside in a lot of them, Trump would never have been elected president, and if he were president, his “Stop the Steal of the Election” campaign would have raised about $1.50. Huck would have been impressed by Trump’s artistry, but he would have seen right through him.

Truth and Needs

Republicans have convinced about half the population that democrats are socialists, and that if these socialists get in power, they will immediately raise taxes on everybody, build up the government bureaucracy, drive up the national debt, impose burdensome regulations on businesses and individuals, make trade deals that will result in all good jobs going to foreigners and illegal immigrants, and do away with our freedoms, especially religious freedom, and, while they’re at it, destroy the Second Amendment so we have no way of protecting ourselves against the rampant crime that will be unleashed.

 None of this is true. The Republican Party has become an anti-truth, anti-science, corruption-tolerant, plutocratic-favoring, environmentally indifferent, cynically opportunistic cadre that has benefited by aligning itself with a sociopathic, corrupt, divisive, and dangerous president. Democrats need to have a strong and aggressive agenda and they need to educate the public. The United States needs to become a truth-based nation. Then we can have rational debates about policy issues.

Robert Reich and Plutocratic Trends

Among those whose Facebook postings appear regularly when I check that site is Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who is currently a professor at University of California in Berkeley and is one of the smartest and best informed people in the country. Reich is a master of statistics, which he is adept at using to expose plutocratic trends.

He recently pointed out that Jeff Bezos, the chief plutocrat in the country, could give each of his tens of thousands of Amazon workers a $100,000 bonus and he would still be as rich as he was before the pandemic. (Bezos apparently has made 60 billion in Amazon stock appreciation this year.) I don’t think that would be the best use of Besoz’s spare change, but Reich’s hypothetical nicely illustrates how growing income and wealth income inequality have come to define our country.

Communication Is Critical

Tens of millions of people voted for Republicans up and down ballot even though they would be much better off (as would the entire country) if Democrats were in control. Democrats must be far more imaginative and effective in communicating basic truths to the large section of the population that lives in a delusionary world fashioned by right-wing propaganda. 

This is What a Plutocracy Looks Like

News Item: “With the holidays upon us and the pandemic worsening, 26 million now say they don’t have enough to eat, an increase several times greater than the most comparable pre-pandemic figure.”

News Item:Billionaires in the U.S. have grown their wealth by over a third — or by more than $1 trillion — since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation in March, a new report finds.” 

Democrats should aggressively address this problem which is at the heart of what is wrong with this country. To be effective, they must educate the public as to realities that have been grievously obscured and ignored in political discourse.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Income and Wealth Inequality Worsen

The stock market hit a new high yesterday –– the rich get richer, and the super rich get even super richer–– while a large segment of the population is impoverished and tens of millions lack adequate food and shelter. As income and wealth inequality worsen, Republicans emulate whoever it was in the French royal family, who when told that most people couldn’t afford bread, said “Let them eat cake.” This country needs a much more progressive tax and subsidy structure. Otherwise, though it may retain the trappings of democracy, its essential character will increasingly be that of a plutocracy.

Memo to Republican Leaders

You’ve demonstrated that you’re willing to trash American democracy and the Constitution and support autocratic rule. You’ve never tried this before, so it’s understandable that you’re not very good at it. Next time, find coattails to cling to of an aspiring autocrat who isn’t so inept at disguising that he is a malevolent narcissist.

Can Reality Survive?

Headline: “The disinformation system that Trump unleashed will outlast him. Here’s what reality-based journalists must do about it.”

A lot has changed since I was college-age, about seventy years ago. In those days I had never heard of “a wild fish.” Nor had I heard of “reality-based journalists.” Is there now a special course on reality in journalism schools? Is it possible to concentrate in this branch of journalism?

In college I read John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty.” I was convinced by Mill’s belief that free speech was desirable because, in the clash of discourse, truth will shine forth. I remember the quote from Voltaire, “I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.”

This sort of sentiment became my creed, but, weirdly, it’s beginning to seem quaint. A great swath of media outlets and malevolent provocateurs constantly spew forth lies and conspiracy theories with no factual basis. Large segments of the population live in disinformation bubbles. If Orwell were alive, he’d have all the material he needs to write a sequel to 1984.

Reality-based journalists have their work cut out for them.

The Longterm Effect of the Trump Cult

During the primary campaign in 2016, Republican Party leaders rightly reviled the charlatan and grifter competing against them, but when he improbably won the nomination and the election, they realized that he was of great use to the Party because his mode of demagoguery attracted and energized great numbers of voters, who were fooled into thinking he cared about them and would act on their behalf. This substantial block of voters –– the Trump cult –– conferred on Republicans the political power they needed to advance their plutocratic agenda, block progressive initiatives, and stack the courts with right-wing ideologues.

As has long been known, bargains with the devil tend to have long-term negative consequences. The Trump cult, energized by pulsating streams of disinformation and conspiracy theories, flourished and now effectively controls the Party. Republicans can’t win primary or general elections without support of its adherents.

If Republican leaders weren’t lacking in courage and a basic sense of moral responsibility, they would risk their political careers in the service of truth, justice, and decency by repudiating Trump. Almost none have. Nearly the whole lot of them either echo outrageous lies and behavior by Trump and his lackeys, or pretend not to notice the damage Trump has inflicted on our country. Their status as indentured servants to the Trump cult will outlast Trump’s term in office.

The Biggest Challenge

Robert Reich: “The richest company in the country {Walmart}, owned by the richest family in the country, pays such low wages that thousands of their workers need food stamps to survive. This is the real looting in America. Enough of this morally obscene corporate welfare.”

Along with all the other problems we have is the stark fact that our country has become a plutocracy. We need a much more progressive tax structure, but the election results reveal that this is not going to happen in the foreseeable future. Almost half the electorate is trapped in a disinformation bubble. The biggest challenge for progressives is how to reach them

 

 

Trump’s Last Stand

Trump’s invidious attempts to negate election results through law suits despite any significant  evidence to support them have failed.  Trump is now trying to get Republican-controlled legislatures of states that Biden won to appoint electors who will cast their state’s electoral votes for Trump contrary to the expressed will of the people they represent. This will only work if enough Republican legislators are willing to sign on to this despicable scheme. That doesn’t seem likely, but a lot of unlikely things have been happening lately, including the participation of many powerful Republicans in a conspiracy, led by a sociopathic president, to convert our form of government from a democracy to an autocracy.

Real Socialists

Headline: “Walmart and McDonald’s have the most workers on food stamps and Medicaid, new study shows”

Food stamps are a federal subsidy enabling low income people to get enough to eat. Companies like Walmart and McDonald’s are able to pay workers less because of this subsidy and the workers will still be nourished enough to keep working. Thus, this government subsidy is a subsidy to companies like Walmart and McDonald’s. Yet Republicans argue that electing Democrats will lead to socialism. Republicans are the real socialists, practicing socialism for big business.

The Greatest Danger

It may be that the greatest danger to American democracy isn’t Trump, an outsized plastic bag of toxic hot air that is leaking at an increasing rate and appears destined to become a deflated pile of rubbish to be carted away, but religious nationalists who believe that our country should be an authoritarian Christian Republic. Powerful, billionaire-backed people, including justices of the Supreme Court, senators, and representatives, are members of, or sympathetic to, this high-powered movement, distinguished by, as Katherine Stewart, in a New York Times op-ed, puts it, a “radical political ideology that is profoundly hostile to democracy and pluralism.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

The Conversion of the Republican Party to the Authoritarian Party

News Item: Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, importunes the Georgia Secretary of State to find a way to exclude ballots from heavily Democratic districts in the upcoming runoff elections for two Georgia senate seats.

Graham and most Republican politicians and their allies have abandoned any semblance of upholding the Constitution and preserving American democracy. They have turned the Republican Party into the Authoritarian Party. Democracy won a battle with Biden’s election, but a long and brutal war lies ahead.

How to Calm Trump Down

Trump is throwing a prolonged fit of pathologically extreme proportions because he can’t bear being a loser. Morally deficient Republicans are trying to calm him down and escape vengeful responses from Trump and members of the Trump cult by pretending that there may be some merit in his absurd false claims.

     Better would be to tell him this:

Yes, Biden won, but he only won another boring election of someone who will  have to stand and take it while the media snipe at him for four years. What really matters is that you’re the winner in the world-wide competition to decide who is the greatest con-man of all time. You are the greatest. You WON! You demonstrated again and again that you’re a sociopath and a grave danger to the country and to humanity at large, and that you don’t give a damn about anyone but yourself, but you were still able to con over 73 million people into voting for you. That was a tremendous accomplishment. No one on the planet could have done that but you! Do you mind if we say it again: You are the greatest. You will be in the history books and the Guinness Book of World Records long after Biden is forgotten. Now let us help you pack your belongings, so you can get out of this dump. No, nobody will notice if you snatch that vase that’s been here since Dolly Madison was the first lady. A very stable genius like you deserves a souvenir.

Note from Surreal Land

Fragment from a Washington Post news story this morning: “Hours later, with midnight approaching, a group of marchers unfurled a massive “TRUMP LAW AND ORDER” banner and laid it atop Black Lives Matter Plaza.”

Republican Machinations

It’s evident that Trump and most leading Republican politicians no longer envisage any scenario in which Trump will remain in office after January 20th. Biden won decisively, the election went too smoothly, and legal attacks on it in key states have been brushed off in the courts. Nevertheless, Republicans continue to cast doubt over the results. As emerges from a conversation between journalist Anne Applebaum and Ezra Klein, reported in Vox, the purpose of Republican leaders at this point is to cement in the minds of a very large cohort of voters, roughly equivalent to the Trump “base,” the false belief that, as Trump relentlessly tweeted, the mainstream media is fake news, and Democrats –– “the deep state” –– conspired to undermine Trump and steal the election from him. Republican leaders believe that keeping this block of voters and their rage and delusions intact will be useful in future campaigns.

Thugs

Criminal bosses need thugs to carry out their dirty work. The best portrayal of a thug I can remember was supplied by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. As I recall, Pesci received an Academy Award for best supporting actor in that film.

We don’t think of thugs as being educated men wearing suits and ties, but in abetting and aiding Trump in refusing to accept the results of the election, impeding orderly transition of government, degrading government agencies, and inciting divisiveness and distrust, Pence, Barr, Pompeo, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and others in the Trump crime family have demonstrated that they are thugs no less than the Joe Pesci character in Goodfellas, and doing a lot more damage.

The Worst Crime

Back in the 1950s, during the Red Scare and blacklisting of suspected Communists and Communist sympathizers, demagogues like Senator Joe McCarthy and other conspiracy theorists of the day accused a lot of people of being Communists, mostly controlled by the Soviet Union, and claimed that they sought to overthrow the government of the United States. This was considered to be just about the worst crime imaginable —our precious democracy under assault from traitors controlled by foreign actors. I haven’t heard any mention of conspiracies to overthrow the government of the United States since then, but a pernicious one appears to exist right now. Members of the conspiracy include Trump, Pence, the secretary of state, the attorney general, prominent members of Congress, and others, who are conducting a massive disinformation campaign, claiming that Biden’s election win was fraudulently secured, sabotaging transition procedures, bringing baseless law suits, and trying to convince anyone they can that Trump won the election and should remain in office. Participants in this malevolent charade deserve to be permanently shamed and shunned.

G.O.P.  R.I.P.

Republicans have decided that since they no longer have sufficient  public support to stay in power, they should bring to bear authoritarian techniques in an effort to overturn the election. It’s unlikely they will accomplish this. What they will accomplish –– in fact already have accomplished –– is the destruction of the G.O.P. The Grand Old Party is no more. How viable and successful its successor, the Authoritarian Party, will be remains to be seen.

What’s Wrong with So Many White People?

Exit polls showed that more white people voted for Trump than for Biden. That Trump will be turned out doesn’t disguise that a moral plague hangs over our country. It took the descendants of slaves kidnapped from Africa and brought here against their will to save America from autocracy, which would surely have ensued if Trump had been re-elected. Black people know tyranny and cruelty when they see it. What’s wrong with so many white people that they don’t?

A Useful Selection of Adjectives and Nouns Descriptive of Trump and His Enablers.

Trump wasn’t defeated in a landslide, but he was defeated decisively. This selection of adjectives and nouns describing Trump, the Trump administration, and his enablers serves as a guide to what we can expect from them in the weeks ahead. 

Adjectives (from Michelle Goldberg’s New York Times column yesterday): “squalid, terrifying, degrading, tragic.”

Nouns (from Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post column yesterday): “kooks, conspirators, liars and authoritarians.”

We May Not Be as Lucky Next Time

It appears that, battered and bruised, American democracy will survive a while longer. The hyper-narcissistic aspiring dictator will be ushered out of the White House by January 20th. It’s more than disturbing how close he came to winning, and it’s more than disturbing contemplating how he would have behaved if he had. It’s more than distressing how so many Republicans in positions of power were willing to support his autocratic ambitions, and that many still are ––echoing and amplifying his hysterical protestations and baseless accusations. Suppose Trump had been less glaringly incompetent, and more devious. more clever, more Machiavellian. We may not be as lucky next time.

The Outlook

As of this morning it looks likely that Biden will become president on January 20th, but ugly weeks may lie ahead. Trump’s malignant narcissism knows no bounds, and, with few exceptions, Republican politicians have been too cowardly and morally deficieint to repudiate this dangerous enemy of truth, decency, and democracy.

Trump’s hysterical and baseless claims of fraud and a stolen election are so far removed from reality that it’s unlikely that even the right-wing agenda-driven Supreme Court would disgrace itself with a ruling that would award him a second term. 

I Don’t Want To Bring You More Bad News, But . . . 

In a New York Times column I read last evening, Nicholas Kristoff said he was wondering why “so many millions of Americans watched Trump for four years, suffered the pain of his bungling of Covid-19, listened to his stream of lies, observed his attacks on American institutions — and then voted for him in greater numbers than before?” 

 I’ve been puzzling over this too. In Tom Friedman’s column in the same newspaper, Friedman quoted Harvard Law School professor Michael Sandel, who gave this answer: “Democrats need to address the sense of humiliation felt by working people who feel the economy has left them behind and that credentialed elites look down on them.”

Ironically, it’s been mostly Republican politicians, including Trump, who have “left them behind.” If Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, they could address grievances of this nature with constructive legislation and change perceptions of millions of voters, but it’s almost certain that Republicans will control the senate and block any legislative initiatives that might reflect favorably on Democrats. This ugly dynamic is likely to endure for the foreseeable future.

The Morning After Election Day

The forces of nihilism run strong in our country. The United States, and humanity, needed an overwhelming Democratic victory to clear the air and signal to the world that it had recovered its equilibrium, and that, beginning next January 20th, our government could be expected to work for the common good.

Instead, it appears that Republicans will retain control of the senate, in which case, even if Biden becomes president, chances of constructive legislation are close to nil. That’s the best case. The worst case, which looks at least as likely and probably more likely, is that Trump will remain in office, and the trend of America’s descent toward a Putin-type autocracy will accelerate. 

Headline: “How Does This Election Look Outside of the U.S.? You Don’t Want to Know”

I didn’t read this article. They were right. I didn’t want to know, or, rather, I already knew: Our country is viewed from abroad with pity, puzzlement, and scorn. After Trump was elected in 2016, a friend in Barcelona wrote that he was surprised that Americans would elect a fascist. I imagine he and a lot of people around the world have been even more surprised that we have allowed a dangerous sociopath to remain in office and that he has a chance of remaining in power for four more years. Our ship of state is listing badly. If Trump can be dragged off the bridge and a new captain placed in charge, I’m confident that we can pump out the bilge water, patch the hull, right the ship, and sail on.

Election Prediction

I predict that Biden will win election in the sense that voters who voted, or tried to cast their vote, for him will outnumber those who voted, or tried to cast their vote, for Trump in a sufficient number of states to give Biden the 270 electoral votes he needs to prevail.

What I cannot predict is whether Biden will become president of the United States on January 20th. That’s because this election is not so much between Biden and Trump, as between American democracy and autocracy. Supporting democracy is a clear majority of voters. Supporting autocracy are Trump, Pence, the attorney general and many of his underlings, other cabinet members, virtually every Republican who is a member of Congress, the vast majority of Republican members of state governments, many judges of lower courts and, there is reason to believe, as many as five justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Republicans Who Have Distinguished Themselves and Republicans Who Have Disgraced Themselves

In an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning, Jennifer Rubin salutes the distinguished Republicans who have repudiated Trump. They stand in stark contrast to “the legions of scurrilous and spineless Republicans who cowered before President Trump and refused to uphold our democratic norms and traditions.” As conservative New York Times columnist Brett Stephens noted in his column this morning, those in this latter group, who control the Republican Party, “will have spent the past four years squandering their reputation, forsaking their principles, and trashing the kind of political culture they once claimed to hold dear.”

Election Odds

Headline: “Major delays slow mail voting in swing states, USPS data shows, as strict deadlines loom.” 

Judging by polls, margins of error, and early voting patterns, I’m guessing that if there were no calculated Democrat-targeted voting suppression and baseless ballot invalidation by Republicans in all three branches of government, the odds would be about 95% that Biden will win. Given the reality, I’m guessing that the odds are about 55% that Biden will win.

Trump (sick as I am of talking about him)

There are dozens of reasons why no one, regardless of their political philosophy, should vote for Trump. Just one example: his child separation policy inflicted trauma on thousands of families and essentially orphaned more than 500 children. Every vote he gets is a miniature tragedy, a failure of comprehension or moral compass on the part of one of our fellow Americans

The Tilted Playing Field

Tens of millions of votes are being cast in the form of mail-in ballots. With a pandemic ravishing the country, it’s the most sensible way to vote. Tens of millions have voted, and their ballots have been received in election offices and will be counted. Tens of millions more have voted by mail, but their ballots are still in transit. Normally, there would be no question that they would reach election offices by election day, but the postmaster general, a Trump lackey, has revamped the postal service, and he and his allies have been working to slow deliveries, especially in heavily Democratic urban areas like Detroit and Philadelphia. Because of this insidious, profoundly immoral, behavior, millions of ballots, though mailed in what should have been plenty of time, will not reach election offices until after election day, too late to be counted under the laws of many states. This is just one of the ways in which Trump is trying to ensure that he will “win” the election, even though, if all votes were counted there is little question that he would lose.

The election is being held on a tilted playing field. Democrats can’t win unless they get sufficient votes counted in key states, despite Republican efforts to stifle them.

Too Late to Vote by Mail

Republicans in power are trying to suppress votes likely to be cast by Democrats. Mail is being slowed in key areas that vote heavily Democratic, like Detroit and Philadelphia. Right wing legislatures and judges have instituted or are instituting rules preventing ballots from being tabulated if they arrive after election day even if they were postmarked several days before election day. It’s probable that, if an issue that comes before the Supreme Court that gives them the chance, a majority of Justices –– Kavanaugh, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett –– will vote to throw the election to Trump. Democratic candidates and supporters are urging voters to vote in person or hand-deliver ballots to official drop boxes. Six days before election day shouldn’t be too late to vote by mail, but it is.

Excerpts from How to Steal an Election – a Guide for Aspiring Autocrats Who Get to Be President of the United States.

from Chapter 27 –– “Manipulating Mail-In Voting”:

“IMPORTANT. This is one of the most important chapters in this book. Have someone explain it to you if you’re not good at reading . . .   Appoint a Postmaster General who will slow mail delivery selectively as needed . . . In battleground states like Michigan, even if the mail volume is extraordinarily heavy because of a pandemic, get friendly judges to rule that mail-in ballots can’t be counted if received after election day, even if they were postmarked by or before election day. . .   Get your postmaster general to slow mail delivery in areas like Detroit, where most votes are likely to be for your opponent. . . . This should enable you to win in that state, but, in case you lose anyway, have your press release and tweets ready claiming mail fraud and legal briefs ready to file in court demanding that the election results be nullified because of massive fraud by agents of your opponent and ‘the deep state’.”

The Threat of Religious Dogmatism

Having religious faith is well-regarded in the United States, as well as elsewhere throughout the world. In our country, it would be virtually impossible for a self-proclaimed atheist to be elected to high office. Our Constitution rightly protects freedom of religion. True wisdom is found in the teachings of great religious teachers. All this is good, and it’s understandable that many religious people think that what they believe their faith requires overrides all other considerations. But what happens when critical numbers of people in positions of power hold religious beliefs that clash with liberal, reasoned, compassionate, equitable, honest, empirically based principles that have become enshrined in Constitution, statutes, and institutional workings of post-Enlightenment societies? What happens when the Supreme Court of the United States becomes dominated by such people? What happens when Supreme Court justices, though they are obliged to disguise their motivation, decide cases by responding to what they believe is the mandate of their religious convictions rather than to secular laws and institutions they swore to uphold? This is the threat of religious dogmatism.

Willam Barr, the authoritarian-minded chief law enforcement officer of the United States is a religious dogmatist. It’s a safe bet that he already has in hand drafts of petitions, including one addressed to the Supreme Court of the United States, seeking a ruling that election results in designated states be nullified because a substantial number of ballots were fraudulently submitted or tampered with. His loyal assistants will only need to fill in a few details on election night. We don’t know how the religious dogmatists controling the Supreme Court would decide such a case, though we have plenty of clues.

Among the Many Horrors

The Trump administration has brought so many horrors upon us, we tend to lose track of them. Among the most lamentable is the accelerating transition of our democracy into a plutocracy. Greed and indifference to the less advantaged drive policy. No one is more aware of this and more disgusted by it than former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. In a Facebook posting yesterday, he noted that the Federal minimum wage has remained unchanged from what it was in 2009 –– $7.25 per hour –– while the aggregate wealth of the 400 richest Americans has increased from 1.27 trillion dollars to 3.2 trillion dollars.  Reich has written elsewhere of socialism for the rich. That’s what we have. It’s built into the tax code.

The Shrinking of the American Mind

This title of Roger Cohen’s New York Times column this morning gives a sense of the “stunning mediocrity and myopia” of the final presidential debate, of how far our country has fallen. Trump exemplifies the worst in America, and he has brought out the worst in all those who have been susceptible to his snarling, blustering, mendacious, resentment-stoking, utterances and tweets. Trump and his fellow proto-fascist propagandists and morally deficient enablers have disgraced and weakened our  country to a degree that we are viewed with pity, bemusement, and contempt around the world.

“Be as mean, selfish, cruel, hypocritical, and dishonest as you want,” is Trump’s message. Tens of millions of Americans have responded to it. If he is not only voted out of office, but also forced out of office in January –– it appears that both steps will be necessary –– the best our country can hope for is a long, contentious, agonizing period of self-repair.

Last Night’s Presidential Debate

I only watched about half of it. Trump is a con man, fraudulent to the core. I can’t stand looking at him. Biden is stolid, knowledgeable, and competent. It’s tragic that Trump was elected. It’s tragic that he wasn’t expelled from office after being impeached. It’s tragic that Republicans have supported his candidacy for reelection. After I left the debate, I settled down with my computer and checked out the Astronomy Picture of the Day, which showed a picture of a NASA probe that had landed on an asteroid about 180 million miles away and was gathering little rocks to bring back to our planet for examination. Neat. This morning I was glad to read Jennifer Rubin’s observation in a Washington Post column: “Nothing that occurred during Thursday Night’s debate increases the chances we will have to endure four more years of the unhinged, know-nothing narcissistic president.”

500  Children

During the course of the Trump administration, the United States government  kidnapped more than 500  children of migrants seeking asylum and sent them to various locations without bothering to keep track of their parents, condemning all or most of them to permanent separation from their families. Apart from other crimes and violations of human rights by the Trump administration, this was a mass crime of exceptional cruelty perpetrated by Trump and those who followed his directives.

It staggers the imagination that we have to worry that it may prove impossible to remove Trump from office by inauguration Day, January 20th. Every single voter in America who does not vote for Biden is either deluded or morally deficient.

Thirteen Days to the End of Voting

The title of this blog reflects that by the time the polls open on November 3rd, a large percentage of votes will have already been cast. Election day has been smeared into Election Weeks. Similarly, it’s quite likely that election results, instead of being available election night, as is usually the case and was in 2016, may be smeared through the following days, weeks, or even months.

By election day, Amy Coney Barrett will be installed on the Supreme Court, cementing a solid majority of right-wing ideologically driven justices. Trump is counting on their support in the event that Republicans contrive to bring a crucial voting issue before them so they can tilt the scales in his favor. There’s also a chance the election will be decided by the House of Representatives, with each state being allowed to cast one vote. Under this bizarre regime, given the present composition of state legislatures, Republicans would prevail, but this may not be the case when the vote would take place the first week in January. That will depend on how local elections came out.

Like a Covid patient in critical condition, American democracy is on a ventilator in the ICU, trying to get enough oxygen to survive.

Thursday’s Presidential Candidates Debate

Because Trump incessantly interrupted Biden and flouted the rules in the first debate, the Debate Commission has decided to shut off each candidate’s microphone for the first two minutes of his opponent’s opening statement during each of the four 15-minute segments of the debate. This will not suffice. The rest of the time will be a repeat of the first debate debacle, with Trump constantly interrupting with false accusations, dark insinuations, feigned righteous indignation, sneers, gesticulations, obfuscations, fabrications, and every other trick in his demagogic playbook. At least the debate will give the viewing public another chance to see him in his all his carnival barking, snake oil-selling, thuggish glory. I’m hopeful that a solid majority of viewers will understand that he is unfit to hold public office.

How I Got To Be a Distinguished Person of the Week.

Every week in a Washington Post column, Jennifer Rubin salutes a distinguished person or persons of the week. Yesterday that award went to American voters who, as is permitted in most states, voted early by mail or in person, including many who waited in line for as much as eleven hours.  I voted Thursday by inserting my ballot in a drop box at the county offices, so I’m a distinguished person, though a lot less distinguished than people who waited hours in outrageously long lines.  As Rubin noted, “At a time when democracy is under siege around the world . . . it is immensely encouraging to see Americans flock to the polls.”

Earth

I’m skipping posting a blog this weekend except to say that this NASA picture of Earth rising over the moon has long haunted me. Our planet is no longer as universally beautiful close up, closer to the ground. It looks like saving it, and thereby us, will require a revolution of desires.

If Only It Could Happen

The theme of a Ted talk yesterday by a climate expert (I didn’t listen to it) was that humanity has ten years left to radically change course on emissions of greenhouse gases before global warming becomes irreversible and our planet consigned to uninhabitability (presumably within a few centuries rather than within a billion or so years.)

If humans were sufficiently rational, world leaders would quickly convene and agree to radical changes in energy policy. Parliaments and legislatures would swiftly enact laws and mechanisms for implementing agreed-upon policies. Tax and subsidy policy would be designed to speed and facilitate needed changes. To give an example: Coal miners would be given stipends while being trained to make and install solar panels. Higher gasoline taxes would match subsidies for electric cars. It would be thrilling to be involved in this historically unique effort to save humanity from self-extinction. It would lift spirits around the globe.

Amy Coney Barrett and Religious Dogmatism

It’s evident from her life record and her testimony in the hearings concerning her nomination to the Supreme Court that Judge Barrett is a religious dogmatist. One of the great threats to human civilization is religious dogmatism. The religious convictions of a religious dogmatist override all other considerations, including fidelity to the constitution, the law, and, when they conflict, all norms of human decency. Judge Barrett is not immoral, but her moral compass allows her to say she will be faithful to upholding the Constitution and the law despite her religious convictions, even though she will not. Through an odd combination of circumstances and events, as is so often the case in the unfolding of history, four and possibly five justices presently on the Supreme Court are religious dogmatists. When, as is virtually certain, Judge Barrett is confirmed to the Court, there will be five and possibly six.

Hypocrisy of Republicans

Republicans have controlled the senate since 2010. During the remainder of Obama’s administration, they blocked 110 of his judicial nominees and blocked consideration of his nominee to the Supreme Court in February 2016 on the spurious ground (contrary to the intent of the United States Constitution) that only eleven months remained in his presidential term. During the Trump administration, they have confirmed 218 judges, many of them right-wing ideologues, including two supreme court judges, to which, with only three weeks remaining until a presidential election, they are about to install a third. Republicans have no standing to complain about how, if Democrats gain control of the White House and the senate, they might pack the courts.

The Frail Nature of Optimism

Biden is running well against Trump in the polls, cause for optimism, but my optimism is frail. Republican politicians have betrayed the Constitution, norms of decency, and the American people en masse and show no signs of letting up. Disinformation and voter intimidation campaigns abound.  New evidence has surfaced of coming cyber attacks on the electoral process. Election night may be a nightmare. It’s not clear  we’ll get through the next three months with democracy intact.

Journey to the Year 3000 – The Interactive Audio Adventure!

I’m taking a break today from bashing Trump and related topics to announce the release by SpeechCloud Studios, Amsterdam, of my adaptation of one of my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure®* books, Journey to the Year 3000, as an interactive audio adventure. 

Not long ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as an interactive audio product, so, in case you don’t, and are interested, here’s how it works, and, by the way, it’s free! If you have an Amazon Alexa enabled device (mine is called an Echo Dot), once it’s up and running, say these exact words: “Alexa, launch Journey 3000.” You’ll soon find yourself about a thousand years in the future.

The story is narrated by my grandson David Corenswet, who to my good fortune happens to be a highly accomplished professional actor. He’ll recount what’s happening to you in the story and give you choices from time to time. You’ll say what you decide to do, and the story will continue from there, just as it did in the original book, except for some terrifying new situations.

If you undertake this adventure, even if you don’t survive to get back to the present from the year 3000, if you think it’s worth commenting on, please consider visiting the Amazon skill store  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KJ6DGNT/ and say what you think.

Note: You may see references to Journey 3000 as a “skill.” That’s because Amazon, which is a corporate version of a narcissist, calls interactive products like this an Alexa “skill.” From their standpoint, what anyone creates and produces is simply another skill that one of their computers has acquired.

I should also say that, if you’ve played (Is that the right word?) the story for a while and quit and later want to start over at the beginning, or from where you left off, say to your device, ”Alexa, launch Journey 3000,” and whoosh –– you’ll be there.

*Choose Your Own Adventure is now a registered trademark of ChooseCo LLC, which is not related in any manner to me, this product, or Speech Cloud Studios.

Technical Difficulties

This blog will be down for a few days because of technical difficulties. I wrote earlier about this and wasn’t satisfied with how it came out, so I trashed it, producing the following notice:’

“You just trashed a Post. Search engines and other websites can still send traffic to your deleted post. You should create a redirect to ensure your visitors do not get a 404 error when they click on the no longer working URL. With Yoast SEO Premium, you can easily create such redirects.”

Good grief. What’s that all about?

I’ll resume after I get help from my website manager.

Criminals in Elective Office

I read that the Governor of Texas ordered that ballot drop-off boxes must be limited to one per county, and the Texas government and legislature decreed that photo I.D.s required for voting would not be deemed adequate if they have been issued by State or local governmental agencies in Texas, but that a card showing that the applicant is a gun owner would would suffice. These measures amount to rank acts of voter suppression, clearly tilted to decrease the number of eligible voters likely to vote Democratic far more than those likely to vote Republican. Such requirements are indefensible. Since they are designed to deprive individuals of basic rights and to contravene the Constitution and the laws establishing the principle of universal suffrage, they are criminal acts, and the elected officials imposing them are criminals.

Of course, Texas is not the only state where this sort of thing is happening. That voter suppression of this sort has become standard practice for Republican-controlled state governments and has become tolerated by the majority of justices of the Supreme Court is one of the tragedies of our time.

Predisposed Authoritarians

Yesterday, I finished reading Anne Applebaum’s superb new book Twilight of Democracy –- The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. I made notes and plan to write a memo about it. I’ll just say here that near the beginning she refers to an estimate made by the behavioral economist Karen Stenner that about a third of the population of any country have an “authoritarian predisposition.” This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and I think one-third of the population is a good guess. It lines up pretty closely to the roughly forty percent of the country that comprises the “Trump base.” It’s not that hard to spot people with an authoritarian predisposition, though they include people as disparate as Bill Barr, Sean Hannity, Clarence Thomas, and the Proud Boys.

Nightmare Scenarios

In a Washington Post column yesterday, Brookings Institution scholar Norman Ornstein detailed how our Constitution and statutory laws fail to provide for presidential succession or designation of someone to temporarily assume presidential powers in the event of not implausible scenarios too numerous to list here. To give an example: What happens if Trump dies, and Pence falls ill and is on a ventilator? Our ship of state is more prone to alarming leaks than most of us imagined.

Trump and Covid

Trump has Covid and is in the hospital. Most politicians, journalists, opinion writers, and many others are wishing him a speedy recovery. Some are sending thoughts and prayers. No one should wish suffering on anyone, but, in sending thoughts and prayers, I would put him last in line behind all the people who contracted Covid because of his callous indifference to it and all those who have suffered otherwise because of his greed, mean-spiritedness, and sloth. 

The Candidates in the November 3 Election

The two candidates running against each other are Autocracy and Democracy.  Last evening,  Rachael Maddow presented an inside look at the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature’s plan to create an “Election Integrity Committee” that would have subpoena  power to investigate polling and vote tabulation, find irregularities, and delegitimatize results, thereby permitting the legislature to determine how Pennsylvania’s electoral votes will be cast. This is one of the most brazen and potentially consequential of many Republican efforts in process to suppress voting and alter outcomes in order to preserve power contrary to popular will.

Notes from the Plutocracy; courtesy of Robert Reich

In the United States, teachers can only deduct up to $250 of the amount they spend on school supplies, even though the average teacher spends twice that amount. Meanwhile, Trump deducted over $70,000 on hairstyling costs. 

The Presidential Candidates Debate Last Night

I promised I would report my impressions of the debate last night, but I flunked as a journalist and analyst, quitting about two-thirds of the way through. My trouble is that I can’t watch Trump for a sustained length of time without feeling physically ill. I know that he is not as bad as Hitler, or Stalin, or any one of a tremendous number of villains in history, or numerous homicidal maniacs or sadistic perverts scattered throughout the world, but he is the most repulsive human being I’ve witnessed among the thousands I’ve observed in person or on television over the course of dozens upon dozens of years.

Chris Wallace, the moderator, is reputed to be a tough questioner, but he failed to institute and enforce strict rules, which were very much needed. He should have mandated that there would be zero interruptions during each candidate’s allotted time to speak. Did Wallace expect Trump to be civil? It’s an absurd concept. Trump should be penalized for infractions. Next time cut off his mic until he behaves.

The producers should only have shown the person who was speaking. It was a bad idea to have a split screen, subjecting viewers to the distracting sight of Trump sneering and silently snarling between his outbursts. Why allow him to be on camera when he is violating the debate rules?

I doubt if many prospective voters made up their minds as a result of watching this debate. Biden is not an impressive candidate, but he is a capable, honorable, and good-hearted man, who is committed to serving the public interest rather than his own,  Trump has none of these qualities. He is a sociopath and a menace to our country and to all humanity. That was true before the debate, true after the debate, and it will be true on election day.

Explaining the Upcoming Election in “The World’s Greatest Democracy” to my Friend in Amsterdam.

Trump is well behind in most polls, so he and his enablers, including the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, are trying to sabotage the election in advance and intimidate voters, so that even if Trump loses, which looks highly likely, he will declare that the results were fraudulent, refuse to leave office, file multiple lawsuits, and hope that friendly judges will violate their oath of office and support him. 

Duty Calls

Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post article this morning is an open letter to Justice Department lawyers, laying out their Constitutional and professional duties, which they are called upon to obey rather than directives from corrupt officials, including any emanating from Attorney General Bill Barr. They must be willing to lose their jobs rather than accede to those who would betray our democracy. Few of us expected that we would reach such a point, but there are times in the unfolding of history when people of good will are called upon to be heroes, and such a time has come.

Faithful Followers of the Autocratic Playbook

Autocrats try to shut down responsible journalism. They tolerate adulation, complicity, and passivity, and nothing else. Elements of the media other than their sycophantic supporters are “enemies of the people.” They substitute their self-aggrandizing fabrications for facts. They become fountains of lies, which they repeat, reiterate, repeat, and say again. People begin to think that what they’ve heard so much must be true.

As an aspiring autocrat, Trump faithfully employs this tactic. So do his followers. For example, Lauren Boebert, a self-avowed Trump supporter who is the Republican candidate for Congress in Colorado 3rd Congressional District, continually runs a campaign ad that says nothing about her policy proposals or important issues at stake, but keeps repeating the false accusation that her Democratic opponent, Diane Mitsch Bush, is “a Lying Socialist who will force Americans to have socialized medicine.” Anyone who has examined Mitsch Bush’s record and policy positions, knows this isn’t true. Boebert, like Trump, hopes that she will prevail by continually and repeating false accusations. 

The Saddest Thing

It was a sad thing that, in 2016, all the forces and circumstances that determine which candidate will be elected president of the United States came together in a perfect storm of coincidence such that an individual manifestly unfit to hold that office secured it. During his presidency, Trump has behaved in a way that revealed the full measure of his depravity. The saddest thing is that all the Republican members of the senate, with the fleeting exception of Mitt Romney, have chosen not only to prop Trump up and allow him to remain in office, but also to support perpetuation of his tenure despite the incalculable harm he has inflicted upon our country and the prospect that if he remains as president for another four years, he will fracture our society, destroy our democracy, and imperil all humanity, perhaps irreparably.

This Pivotal Moment in History

Trump’s criminality reached a new peak yesterday as he announced that he intends to change our system of governance from a democracy to an autocracy. “Get rid of the ballots,” he said, “and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

These words are a call to all people of good will to do their utmost to remove him from office.

On a Train with No Brakes Traveling though a Dark and Stormy Night toward a Bridge That’s Out

That’s the way I felt reading Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan’s review in the current New York Review of Books of Will He Go?: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020, by Lawrence Douglas, an analysis of our federal and state patchwork of loosely assembled, mostly ill-thought-out, individually and collectively subject-to-abuse, constitutional provisions, laws and procedures that will come into play in determining who, if anyone, will be inaugurated as president on January 20, 2021 and compendium (supplemented by professor Karlan in her review) of possible horror scenarios, some or most of which are likely to occur shortly before the election, on the day of the election (November 3), and during the weeks following the election. No, there’s virtually no chance the bridge isn’t out.

Bad Faith

“Fight against the normalization of the unacceptable,” Christiane Amanpour” counseled Americans after the 2016 election. That fight has not been successful. Republicans heartily endorsed the unacceptable; for the past four years they have acted, almost en masse, in bad faith. As Jennifer Rubin wrote in one of her Washington Post columns yesterday, “By now it should be obvious that President Trump and the Republican Party have exploited with authoritarian viciousness a system that depends on good faith and restraint.”

American democracy will not be saved by passivity on the part of Democrats. Unlike Republicans, they must act in good faith and with good will. But if they can secure control of the presidency and both houses of Congress next January 20th –– an almost even bet –– they must act decisively to restore and strengthen the institutions of democratic governance and protect them against future assaults by the forces of malice, greed, and dogma.

If the Need for Obliteration Arises

In a Washington Post column yesterday, after a moving tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jennifer Rubin made clear, in a rare and probably unprecedented use of bold face type, that Democrats must explain to Republicans unequivocally that if they persist in ignoring the Constitution and norms of decency and fairness and further pursue their reckless and shameful effort to secure longterm control of the government of the United States by filling the Supreme Court court vacancy during the remaining weeks of the Trump presidency that: “If the Senate confirms a new justice before the next president is inaugurated, the new Senate and president will by any means necessary obliterate the impact of that move.”

   Such means could include expanding the size of the Court, ending the filibuster, and admitting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as states.

Thoughts about the Supreme Court

Rather recently, as I recall, in the 1990s, we had a conservative court, which outrageously overstepped its bounds in throwing the 2000 election to Bush. (O’Connor was considered a moderate conservative, but she went along with the majority.)  Obama played by the rules, but Trump / McConnell, abetted by the Republican-controlled senate, elected not to. Refusing to even hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, was a rank affront to the Constitution.

A major event of this century has been the accelerating corruption and fecklessness of the Republican Party and its contempt for the Constitution, the rule of law, civic responsibility, and decency. Their tolerance for the sociopath in the White House is appalling and indefensible. Their acquiescence to his stuffing the Federal courts with ideological allies, limited to those certified by the right-wing Federalist Society, many of them rated unqualified by the A.B.A., is contemptible. Typical of Republican malfeasance and nonfeasance was the faux F.B.I. investigation of Brett Kavanaugh and the refusal of  Republican senators to give serious consideration to the facts and conduct a trial after Trump’s impeachment.

The present Court has inflicted great damage on our democracy, most conspicuously, as far as I know, with the Citizens United case, the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, and throwing up their hands at brazenly partisan gerrymandering. Moreover, the Court has ignored that the Constitution guarantees not only freedom of religion, but freedom from religion.  Roe v. Wade has been dragged closer to the guillotine.

On the Court today, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh are all authoritarian-minded religious nationalists, and Roberts is not far removed from them in his views. Now, Republicans are about to seal long-term control of the Court by adding another one.

A Crisis on Top of a Crisis

Making a bad year worse, we’ve lost RBG. If the Supreme Court has to weigh in on an election decision on the order of Bush v. Gore or some variant of it with five right-wing ideological justices, it’s practically a foregone conclusion what the outcome will be regardless of the merits. Then there’s the whole raft of cases that would likely be decided on their religious nationalist authoritarian power-aggregating utility. In principle, I’m against packing the court, but I agree and then some with Michelle Goldberg in this morning’s New York Times — if Republicans jam through another ideologue under these circumstances, it will be required to save democratic governance.

If Trump Isn’t Defeated

Co-Chairs Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn of the Nuclear Threat Initiative have warned that “achieving security and stability and reducing catastrophic risks on the {Korean} peninsula will require intensive, expert-level negotiations and comprehensive, step-by-step implementation over many months and years.”

This is simply not Trump’s thing. Trump’s thing is blather, bluster, magical thinking, lies, and photo ops. It may not just be American democracy that hangs in the balance with this election. It may be the fate of humanity.

American Democracy and Religious Nationalism

In a recent interview, David Deutsch, one of the most respected and thoughtful physicists in the world, expressed his view that there are two dangers to civilization: “One is moral relativism and the other is religious dogmatism.”

Religious dogmatism is what propelled the mass murderers of 9/11. It abounds throughout the world, very much so in our own country. Men like vice-president Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and attorney general Bill Barr are religious dogmatists. They are in the grip of a religious vision and slaves to an imagined purpose that energizes them and confirms them in their actions, obliterating all other considerations. Thus, Barr, sworn to uphold the Constitution and the law, has no compunction about betraying his duty, because he has a higher calling –– to change America into an authoritarian religious nationalist state, which will thereby serve as the instrument of God and carrying out His plan.

Barr recently urged prosecutors to consider charging violent protestors with sedition –- a crime that has to do with trying to overthrow the government of the United States. His aim, shared with that of despots throughout history, is to intimidate and persecute critics. Just as Trump, who portrays himself as the law and order president, is the most dangerous criminal in the United States, Barr is the most impassioned seditionist.

The Law and Order Criminal

My recollection from law school is that “reckless endangerment” is a felony in many states. Trump recklessly endangers others when he holds an indoor rally, as he did in Nevada a few days ago, violating a State of Nevada order and discouraging the wearing of masks. In one of her Washington Post columns yesterday Jennifer Rubin quotes constitutional expert Laurence Tribe on the matter: “I think Donald Trump’s deliberate exposure of people attending his rallies without masks and without social distancing, given all he has admitted on tape that he knows about how covid is transmitted and how deadly a virus it is, would qualify for state criminal prosecution.”

Trump has said he wants more law and order. He should be careful what he wishes for. Law and order, properly administered, would bring indictments down upon him faster than he can say, “Global warming is a hoax.”

The Useful Idiot

Alexander Vindman, a former Army officer and National Security Director of European Affairs who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine as a child and is fluent in both Ukrainian and Russian, played a key role in the impeachment of Trump, who in retaliation ruined Vindman’s Army career. In a recent interview by Jeffrey Goldberg, of the Atlantic, Vindman commented that “Trump is Putin’s useful idiot.”

Trump has expressed his admiration for Putin, and has proven his sincerity in that respect by never criticizing Putin and invariably defending him. Putin seized the Crimea: nothing worth making a fuss over, as far as Trump is concerned; Putin pays bounties to the Taliban as a reward for killing American soldiers: Ho hum, as far as Trump is concerned: Putin poisons another of his political enemies: Oh, it can’t be true, as far as Trump is concerned.

Does Trump ever think about how he is Putin’s useful idiot? The thought may have flickered across his mind for half a second, but he’s adept at suppressing his humiliation and perfidy by directing his rage at critics and opponents. Putin could not have found a more useful idiot.

The Malignant Narcissist

Narcissus, the original exemplar of self-adoration, was a benign narcissist. As I recall, he stared at his reflection in a pond so long that he starved. No one else was injured. Trump’s narcissism infects others. “If the president can get away with it so can I” is the logic of tens of millions of people infected by his malevolent rhetoric. His way of being is like a cluster of  cancer cells that spread, killing off healthy cells in the process. Those who have strong immune systems resist him. Those who don’t succumb. 

America in Crisis

It seems lately that books have been coming out once or twice a week with new revelations about Trump’s criminality, his deeply corrupt and narcissistic character, and his incompetence and ignorance, his only skills being those of a con man and mafia boss. Abetted by the entire Republican caucus in Congress, corrupt and complicit cabinet members, greedy and power-hungry morally deficient rich corporate and individual donors, and wildly irresponsible right-wing media, he has mounted a full scale assault on our constitutional system and institutions of justice in his attempt to undermine electoral processes and retain power in Putinesque fashion. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues its grip, and fires of unprecedented ferocity and scope ravage the California, Oregon, and Washington.

We are in the midst of what appears to be the worst crisis in American history, arguably worse than the Civil War, because even if the Union had lost, it would have been diminished, but it would have survived –– “the last best hope on earth” would have survived ––  and its citizens would not be living in a world in which civilization is threatened by the effects of accelerating climate change and the resurgent risk of nuclear war.

Worse and Even Worser

The tapes of Woodward’s conversations with Trump uncover new subterranean levels of Trump’s depravity.

Robert Reich reports: “In another interview with Bob Woodward, Trump bragged about helping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman avoid consequences for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA determined that Khashoggi’s gruesome murder was the direct order of the Crown Prince, but Trump insisted during the interview that the Crown Prince “didn’t do it,” bragging that he “saved his ass” and “was able to get Congress to leave him alone.”

“History Will Judge the Complicit”

The above is the title of an article by Anne Applebaum in the July / August Atlantic. She draws parallels with what went on in the Soviet satellite states, particularly East Germany, and in Vichy France. The pattern is being replicated, to a degree, in the United States by Republicans in Congress, each of whom has rationalized why they are not betraying America by supporting Trump and enabling him to remain in office.

It’s hard to believe that sliding from democracy into autocracy, plutocratic kleptocracy, or whatever you want to call it could happen in the U.S.A. But it’s clearly in process, and it’s by no means certain that it can be reversed. Applebaum observes that once certain behaviors become normal, people stop seeing them as wrong. Trump becomes more and more outrageous at such a fast pace that the course of events become a blur. What was once unthinkable becomes the norm.

The Lethal Depravity of Donald Trump

Trump admitted in an interview, taped with his permission, that though he knew how deadly and easily transmissible the Covid-19  virus was even by late January, he deliberately downplayed the risk and discouraged preparations for limiting its effects. His perversity and mendacity have no limits. His behavior has cost tens of thousands of lives. Meanwhile, he and his enablers ignore law and ethics in their efforts to undermine the election. His authoritarian aspirations and contempt for democratic institutions are in full view. If we can get rid of him by January 20th it will be a great blessing. If not, a great curse.

Resentment and Respect

Tom Friedman made an important point in his New York Times column this morning. In 2016 a lot of people, particularly non-college-educated whites, voted for Trump because they felt they had been disrespected and ignored by liberal elites, and they felt that Trump understood them and was more supportive of them than Clinton. For many, Clinton’s remark about Trump supporters being “deplorables” may have quashed any inclination they had to vote for her. Biden needs to counter this driving force of resentment on the part of such voters and convince them that he respects them and will vigorously pursue policies, like supporting unions, providing many more well-paying job opportunities, and enacting a much more progressive tax structure, getting it across as well how, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, he has pursued a policies that enrich the already rich and squeeze the middle class and the poor.

Lawlessness in the Name of Law

From last evening’s online Washington Post: Last night, Trump supporters drove to the Oregon state capitol. “Armed with rifles, pistols, knives and clubs, the far-right demonstrators at one point charged into a smaller group of liberal counterprotesters, knocking at least one activist to the ground.

Sounds as if they are training for likely confrontations after the election. Aspiring Autocrat Playbook: Create chaos. Claim fraud if you lose the election. Declare an emergency and proclaim election results to be invalid. Assume protestors will take to the streets. Encourage armed right-wing vigilantes and militias to attack and intimidate peaceful protestors. Ignore police misconduct and enlist police in your cause. Proclaim that you’ve saved the country from anarchy.

The Big Issue

News Lead: “The president and his supporters are disseminating falsehoods and trafficking in obfuscation at a rapid clip, through the use of selectively edited videos, deceptive retweets and false statements.”

In a recent letter to the editor of my local newspaper, I wrote that the big issue in the upcoming election isn’t conservativism versus liberalism; it’s autocracy versus democracy. The resolution of that issue will turn on the resolution of another one: truth versus falsehood.

Catastrophe in the Making

In a Washington Post op-ed last evening, Georgetown Law professor Rosa Brooks describes “war games” recently held to consider several plausible scenarios on the day of and following this November’s presidential election. Unless Biden wins in a landslide, which presently looks highly unlikely, tactics of Trump and his authoritarian enablers will almost certainly produce violence and a Constitutional crisis. Significantly, what was once called “American democracy” is increasingly often referred to as “the American experiment,” as in “The American experiment may soon be coming to an end.”

Putch in Process

The evidence keeps mounting up, lately exemplified, among other events, by the reduction of the Republican policy platform to an expression of loyalty to Trump, Trump’s urging supporters in North Carolina to vote twice for him, Attorney General William Barr’s brushing off the question as to the legality of such an action, and the continuing campaign of these scoundrels to delegitimize the election. Trump, Barr, Pompeo, et.al., supported by Republicans in Congress and right-wing media and abetted by cadres of deluded Americans and malevolent foreign dictators, most notably Vladimir Putin, to whom Trump has been unwaveringly subservient, are engaged in an outright attempt to replace our constitutional democratic government with autocratic rule.

“The Eerie Stability of Trump’s Approval Rating, Explained”

The above headline is to an article by Ezra Klein in Vox.

Why is it that, as the evidence of Trump’s crimes, destructiveness, corruption, and incompetence piles higher by the day, his approval rating holds almost steady at about 42%?

Kliein gives reasons, but they doesn’t amount to a satisfactory explanation. How do you verify and quantify moral rot and fatalistic stupor, which appear to have enveloped a substantial percentage of the U.S. population?

Add this to the pile: a Washington Post news lead last evening:

“Trump suggests voting twice, once by mail and once in person.  The president encouraged voters to cast ballots twice to ensure their vote is counted. Intentionally voting twice is illegal, and in many states, including North Carolina,  it is a felony.”

We’re deep in surreal land, and it’s hard to see how it won’t get worse in the coming months.

Are Trump and His Enablers Really That Bad?

Are Trump and his Republican enablers really as bad as I’ve been saying? They are. As Jennifer Rubin noted in a recent Washington Post column. “We have become numb after four years or so of lies, racism, xenophobia, narcissism and cruelty. . . The sheer quantity of {Trump’s} lies, outrages and attacks makes it all a blur.” She could have added, massive corruption and staggering incompetence. Resist becoming numb.

Flag Waving

When dozens of American flags are displayed as backdrops for political speeches and and gatherings, waved vigorously at political events, and fly from poles mounted on parades of pickup trucks, Old Glory takes on properties of the Nazi swastika. It begins to signify belligerence and intimidation rather than our mutual commitment to constitutional government, ordered liberty, and a just and compassionate society.

Echoes of Naziism

You can’t trust a lot of what you read on the internet, but I know enough 20th century European history to know that this Facebook post yesterday by Lee J. Carter is accurate: “The history of Nazis holding rallies in left-wing areas of Weimar Germany, instigating street fights, and then telling the press that only they could save Germany from the ‘violent communists’ seems like an important thing for people to be studying right now.”

Trump differs from Hitler in many ways, but like Hitler, he relies on and encourages thugs to create fear and division in an attempt to justify his demagoguery and advance his autocratic aims.

My Republican Friend

I have an old friend who describes himself as a life-long Republican. He is critical of Biden and seems even more critical of Trump. He says he hasn’t decided whom to vote for. I know him to be a person who is highly intelligent and has high moral character. I should be able to communicate with him about the election, but feel at a loss as to how to begin. It’s as if he said he was undecided as to whether pigs can fly. How do you begin to explain that they can’t? I’d like to begin by telling him that if Elizabeth Warren’s golden retriever, Bailey, instead of Joe Biden, were running against Trump, I would vote for Bailey, but I know that saying that wouldn’t fly any better than a pig.  

If American Democracy Is Intact after Jan 20, 2021 . . .

Headline: Pelosi says Dems will release Trump’s tax returns if they win White House

Much needed. And a commission should be established to investigate the tragedy of Trump’s term in office, so the public will be made aware of the full extent of his criminality and perfidy and the venality of his enablers. The commission should recommend legislation ensuring that our democracy will be better protected from internal and external assaults such as we have witnessed during the past four years, and legislation to that end should be enacted into law.

Of course, this can only happen if American Democracy is Intact after Jan 20, 2021.

Good-bye Kellyanne. Into the History Books with You!

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s highly intelligent morally deficient mouthpiece, has stepped aside for personal reasons. She will long be remembered for her association with the term “alternative facts,” which, as I recall, she had the quick wit to come up with as a way to more felicitously label what she’d been spouting than as lies. As if in tribute to Kellyanne, most of what was said at the Republican convention were alternative facts. If Orwell could look in on us, he might be kicking himself for not having invented “alternative facts.” The term would have fit perfectly in 1984.

Post Election Prospects

This morning, two astute legal commentators, Diana Lithwick, writing in Slate, and Linda Greenhouse, in the New York Times, speculate about frightening scenarios, some of which may –– correction: seem likely to –– occur on November 3 and the days and weeks that follow.

Their columns brought a classic scene to mind: On a dark and stormy night, the train is traveling at high speed, and the engineer is unaware that the bridge ahead has been undermined by floods and may give way under the weight and vibration of a speeding train. A red signal is flashing, but his eyes are shut, his head nodding, as the train speeds on.

A Thought after Watching as Much as I Could Stand (very little) of Night #2 of the GOP Convention

The Republican Convention is a case study of how the unprincipled, the deluded, the resentful, the cynical, the slavish, and morally deficient opportunists of all stripes are drawn to bathe in the sickly light cast by a demagogic aspiring autocrat. Trumpism is different from Naziism is some respects, but not in this one.

The Republican Agenda

Rachel Maddow Show reports: “Instead of writing a 2020 platform, Republicans are simply endorsing Donald Trump’s agenda . . . Trump doesn’t have an agenda.”

Of course not. In a kleptocracy the agenda is always the same and always unspoken: Maximize getting money and power for leaders, family members, collaborators, followers, and enablers regardless of what tactics you use or what damage it does to the country and everyone else.

My Election Anxiety Dream

The grim truth about Trump and his enablers never reaches many tens of millions of American voters. It’s blocked, perverted, controverted, pulverized, and dissipates in thin air. One night last week I had a Kafkaesque dream. I had a new job, which was to read the news aloud on a cable TV network. I arrived at the studio well ahead of time. I thought the producers would brief me on what I was to do, but no one would tell me where I was to stand to deliver the news, or what the news was, or when I was to begin. Then, suddenly I was standing in a booth, I was live on the screens of millions of viewers, but I had no script, no news to read. I explained to viewers that I had no script with news to recite to them. I said a few words of encouragement and consolation to those suffering from the pandemic, and my brief time on camera was over. The production people were disappointed in me. I would not be invited back. People would never get the news.

The List

The list of instances of Trump’s misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance is long, the facts on it damning, and their import conclusive: Trump is  temperamentally, intellectually, and morally grossly unfit to be president of the United States. That this is the case is manifest to every observer except those confined within right-wing propagandistic media bubbles, most scandalously Fox News. It follows that  every Trump supporter in our country is either deluded or morally deficient. That so many Americans are in one or the other of these categories is the tragedy of our times.

The Upcoming Republican Convention

There will issue forth from the speakers at the Republican convention next week a succession of lies, fabrications, evasions, irrelevancies, false innuendo, and bombast such as may never before been witnessed. Having decided to support a thoroughgoing scoundrel, participants have no choice. Every material true fact relating to Trump reflects badly on him. It would be folly for his enablers to allow reality to intrude on the evil fantasy they create and hope will be embraced by voters.

Daily Damage

It’s evident that Putin has poisoned Alexei Navalny, the foremost opposition leader, who Putin must feel poses a threat to his autocratic rule. As former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul wrote in a Washington Post column last night. “Navalny’s heroic struggle is no different from what Gandhi, King, Mandela and Havel fought for.”

Putin knows he can get away with anything without fearing criticism, much less retribution, from Trump and his enablers, who find it in their self-interest to turn a blind eye to Trump’s crimes and betrayals.

Every day Trump remains in office, added damage is inflicted on our country.

The Moral Condition of the Republican Party

The Republican Party feeds on demagoguery, and lies. It’s a front for advancing plutocratic faux-populism, following the Putin model. The fruits of its success are evidenced in Robert Reich’s report that the richest 1% own half the value of the stock market; the richest 10% own 92%. Autocracy is fine with Republican leaders as long as it pays off.

The Second Night of the Democratic Convention

I watched about a third of the proceedings and thought it was better than it would have been had it been packed into a huge convention center in the old manner. It was worth watching for the roll call itself, a succession of scenes on site in each of the 50 states, D.C.,  Puerto Rico and (I believe three) U.S. territories. It was like taking a whirlwind tour of the whole spread-out country. The impression was that the Democratic Party is largely composed of decent people of good will. One pundit this morning said that the Republican Party wouldn’t be able to match it. I think that’s true: At this point, every single Trump supporter is either deluded or morally compromised. Put dozens and dozens of them on camera, and it would show through.

The Democratic Convention Opening Night

The opening 25 minutes reminded me of the half time show at the super bowl –– all glitz, aiming to create an aura of goodness. I think it would have been better to begin with a talk by someone with gravitas and credibility –– perhaps Nancy Pelosi –– laying out the stakes, explaining how this election is not a contest between conservatives and liberals, but between autocracy and democracy, between resentment coupled with greed and decency coupled with good will.

The convention events evidenced a deliberate effort to appeal to black voters. A strong turnout of black voters is critical to getting rid of Trump. If the aspiring autocrat in the White House is deposed, it will be in part because enough eligible black voters put their resentment aside and chose to be heroes of our time.

Republican Senators

Suppose you had polled all the Republican members of the senate four years ago and asked this question:

“Imagine that in 2020 a pandemic would make mail-in voting much safer. Would you support a president, whether a Democrat or a Republican, who, fearing that he or she would not be reelected, directed the compliant postmaster general he or she had appointed to impede mail delivery service to a degree that a great many mail-in votes would not be received by election day, thereby delegitimizing the election?”

I am sure that very few would have answered “Yes.” Yet now, when this is exactly what is happening, not one Republican senator has withdrawn support from Trump. The whole lot of them have slid down the slippery slope of accommodating an aspiring autocrat who is betraying his office and betraying our country in the plain light of day. The whole lot of them should be turned out of office.

 

Just Another One of Countless Reasons To Vote Trump and His Enablers Out.

News Item: “The Trump administration is scrapping limits on methane leaks. . . methane is estimated to be at least 25 times and as much as 80 times more potent {than carbon dioxide} in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere.” 

Republican Members of the Senate

Suppose you had polled all the Republican members of the senate four years ago and asked this question: “Would you support a president who, having decided that he was not likely to win reelection in a year in which a pandemic made mail-in voting much safer, directed the postmaster general he had appointed to slow mail delivery service to a degree that many mail-in votes would not be received by election day, thereby delegitimizing the election?” I am quite sure that very few would have answered yes.

 Yet now, when this is exactly what is happening, not one Republican senator has withdrawn support from Trump. The whole lot of them have slid down the slippery slope of accommodating an aspiring autocrat who is betraying his office and betraying our country in the plain light of day. The whole lot of Republican senators seeking reelection this year should be voted out of office. Like Trump, none of them are fit to serve.

Newspaper Editorial Page Policy: a case study in shirking responsibility

Text of letter I sent to the editor of my local newspaper yesterday:

It’s commendable that many Herald editorials focus on historical events –– we need historical perspective woven into an understanding of our times. Still, I think the editors should consider writing more often about the pressing issues facing our country right now. For example, recently Trump installed a mega-donor confederate as postmaster general, and this fellow immediately fired 23 key executives in the postal service, evidently to facilitate Trump’s project of slowing the mails so as to delegitimize mail-in voting. That’s reprehensible. And what about Trump’s dismissiveness of solidly sourced intelligence that Russia has been paying the Taliban bounties for killing American soldiers? When Trump was asked if he had confronted Putin about this in their most recent phone conversation, Trump said the subject hadn’t come up. Then there’s Trump’s welcoming Russian illegal (by its nature) interference with our election on his behalf. These are just a few examples of an endless succession of Trump’s assaults on our democracy that I think responsible newspapers like the Herald should not ignore, particularly because the overriding issue in the upcoming election isn’t about the relative merits of conservative and liberal policies, but about the survival of American democracy.

Kamala

I got a distinct mood lift yesterday when I read that Kamala Harris is Biden’s pick for V-P. I think she was the best choice. I like her a lot.

The Threat 

Rachel Maddow noted last night that authoritarian rulers tend to get reelected, typically by enormous margins, when their terms are up. They use the levers of power to manipulate every element of the electoral process with the aim of ensuring that the vast majority of votes against them are not counted.

Trump is an aspiring authoritarian ruler. He has demonstrated that he doesn’t care a fig leaf for our country’s sacred institutions or norms, that he cares nothing about the rule of law, and that he has no qualms about ignoring his fiduciary duty to serve the American people rather than his personal interest.

As is characteristic of power-grasping demagogues, he has gotten rid of those in government who don’t bend to his will and replaced them with sycophants and morally deficient opportunists willing to assist him, because doing so would serve their own selfish ambitions.

Trump is no less a traitor to our country than any American who would give aid and comfort to a foreign power invading our shores. To rid ourselves of this scourge, all people of good will –– surely a large majority of our citizens –– must work energetically to expose, discredit, and defeat him.

Trump’s Campaign Strategy

Putin will do everything he can to help Trump get reelected. Trump welcomes Putin’s assistance and will do everything he can to facilitate it. Trump hopes that by spreading disinformation and through voter suppression he will win the election, but because he knows he may lose it anyway, he will do  everything he can to lay the groundwork for delegitimizing a win by Biden. Among other tactics, he has instructed the corrupt postmaster general he appointed to slow postal service enough so that, in case he loses, he can plausibly claim that the postal service is unreliable and that results of mail-in voting were fraudulent and should be nullified. Trump will assert this with great passion and with the seeming conviction of a master charlatan, and with the collaboration of his authoritarian-minded and corrupt attorney general, bring multiple lawsuits with the aim of causing further confusion and prolonging his tenure. Such tactics on the part of Trump and his enablers should be relentlessly called out, discredited, and scorned.

Four ways Autocrats Assault Truth

In his timely little book, On Tyranny, historian Tim Snyder lists the four ways in which autocrats assault, debase, and vitiate truth:

1. Contradict verifiable reality: e.g. “Biden “hurt the Bible. Hurt God.” “He’s against God.” “He’s against religion.”

2. Shamanistic incantations: e,g, drumming negative phrases into people’s minds; e.g. “Lock her up.” “Shifty (Adam} Schiff.} “{name of political opponent} is a “dangerous, left-wing, extremist socialist.”  (Note the repetitiveness in example 1, which also qualifies as an incantation.)

3. Magical thinking; e.g. “The virus will go away.”

4. Misplaced (misdirected) faith: “I understand the system better than anyone. I alone can fix it.”

One might think that the dishonesty of such techniques would be manifest, but when employed on a sustained basis by a naturally talented demagogue abetted by powerful and influential factions, they can become normalized. They can take on a life of their own. They can produce a collective numbness of mind. They must be relentlessly called out, discredited, and scorned.

The Crises We Face

Bill McKiibben’s review in the August 20 New York Review of Books of Our Final Warning, Six Degrees of Climate Emergency, by Mark Lynas, lays bare the extreme peril humanity faces from global warming. In the same issue, foreign policy expert Jessica Matthew’s review of four books relating to the threat of nuclear war, including, most saliently, The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump, by former defense secretary William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina, is equally alarming.

     Global warming and the threat of nuclear war are the paramount issues facing us. At the same time, as Slate legal affairs commentator Diana Lithwick notes, we are facing a “catastrophic economic crisis, constitutional crisis, public health crisis, and rule of law crisis.” 

      Our country can’t begin to deal with these grave challenges until we get past the Trump and his enablers crisis.

The Moral Descent of the Republican Party

My parents were staunch Republicans, but they would not recognize the Republican Party in the era of Donald Trump. They would not have believed that the Party would sink so low. They would not have imagined that a Republican president would put his reelection above national security concerns, or would praise foreign dictators, or refuse to hold Russia accountable for paying bounties to Afghans who kill our soldiers, or would promote quack remedies, ignore expert advice, and indulge in magical thinking in dealing with a pandemic, or would direct the compliant postmaster general he appointed to slow post office operations so as to create election chaos, so he can claim that election results are fraudulent. “Republicans would never behave that way!” they  would have said. 

The Most Shocking Thing

I would be able to imagine how people whose whole world of what they assume is information is limited to Fox News and other Trumpian propagandistic elements of the media get their brains so altered that they think Trump is a good president and has been unfairly treated by leftists, liberals, and socialists if these people were not in the process exposed to Trump’s utterances and tweets. No criticism of Trump by others should be needed. In almost every utterance, every tweet, and every gesture he reveals what an appallingly unprincipled, crude, self-aggrandizing, incompetent, reckless, dishonest man he is. The most shocking thing is that his gross unfitness for office – his sheer repulsiveness – is constantly on display in plain sight. Apparently a very large percentage of people in our country “have eyes, but they do not see,” and ears “but they do not hear.”

The Republican Party and Plutocratic Populism

The Republican Party is controlled by the rich and the super rich. The Party elites like being rich and super rich; they want to be taxed less and get even richer, and to that end they want to cut government spending except to support their own interests, and they’ve shown that they don’t much care about the problems of the middle class and the poor and disadvantaged. Because these elites comprise only a small minority of voters, to gain and retain power they have had to entice large numbers of voters whose economic interests would be better served under Democratic administrations. 

Republican elites succeeded in accomplishing their aims by appealing to people for whom possession of firearms is of great importance, people for whom particular religious teachings are of great importance, and people motivated by their resentment of African Americans, immigrants, recipients of pubic assistance other than themselves, and those whom they have been led to believe are dangerous radicals, socialists, liberals, or leftists.

Aided by highly partisan right-wing media and donations from very rich donors, Republican elites succeeded in patching together a winning coalition of these disparate groups. The brand of political faith they successfully marketed has been well characterized as plutocratic populism. They’ll keep pitching it as long as it works, and, as long as it works, they will keep getting richer at the expense of everyone else.

How Trump’s Name Should Live

A fine op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post by George Conway is titled “Trump’s Name Should Live in Infamy.” So it should, and anyone who doesn’t think so is either ignorant or morally deficient. That he was elected president and has been allowed to remain in office indicates that there is something profoundly wrong with this country, and even if we are lucky enough to be rid of him on January 20, 2021, something profoundly wrong with this country will remain. Whether or not it can be remedied we don’t yet know.

Two Questions Definitely Answered by Jennifer Rubin

Could we have foreseen that the Trump presidency would be such a disaster?   

       “If you elect a narcissistic, ignorant, corrupt and cruel president, disaster will ensue.”

Is there any chance that Trump could act more capably and decently?

      “Character this twisted is destiny. Unfitness this severe is irreparable.”

A Good Idea

I read that Spain launched a new program under which it will pay the equivalent or $1,145 per month to the nation’s poorest families.

We could do something like that in the United States. If we did, we would instantly become a better country.

Resisting Tyranny

News Header: “Postal employees are warning that new procedures put in place by a Trump ally {the big-donor crony Trump installed as postmaser general} could undermine their ability to deliver ballots in time for the election.”

Most of the way through historian Tim Snyder’s incisive new book, On Tyranny, I sense a central theme to it, which is that having a majority of good people isn’t enough for a nation to resist tyranny. Our hallowed institutions won’t save us. It will take a critical mass of alert, determined, and courageous people to do so.

Trump’s Idea of How American Democracy Should Work

If you are the president of the United States, and the election is approaching, and you are aware you will not likely be re-elected, you must act decisively. First, state publicly that the election should be postponed. Think of the best reason you can. Don’t worry that it’s not a good reason. It’s planting the idea in people’s minds that  counts –– getting them to think of it as a possibility. But this is not enough! It’s important also to claim that, if you are not re-elected, it will be because mail-in voting led to fraudulent election results. Then instruct the loyalist authoritarian-minded attorney general you appointed to say that he thinks there is a high risk that the election results will be fraudulent. Then instruct the loyalist lackey postmaster general you appointed to slow post office service to give the impression that the mails are unreliable. Don’t worry that what you’re doing is outrageous. Chaos and confusion are your friends. Because you are the president, this is how American democracy should work.

Word Abuse

Among the numerous ways in which Trump has damaged our country is his abuse of words by flinging them willy nilly in his tweeted and spoken rants, sewing misinformation, creating confusion, and tending to put everyone in a worse mood than they would have been in if the world had been lucky enough to be spinning through space without him. “Tremendous” need now be laid to rest; “disgraceful.” “socialists,” “criminal,” “anarchists,” “bad,” and even “sad,” are all terribly the worse for wear, as is “terribly.”

It’s important not to take words to mean what they meant when we first learned them. Does “conservatism” mean what you think it does? In a recent column, Jennifer Rubin brought the definition up to date: “Conservatism” now is a chaotic blend of right-wing nationalism, conspiracy theories, plutocratic economics, cronyism, protectionism, realpolitik foreign policy and repudiation of objective reality.”

Sad and Sobering Facts

At the moment, it appears that Biden has a clear lead over Trump in he polls. Yet, if the election were held today, my understanding is that if no votes were cast by African Americans, Trump would win. A majority of whites are apparently either too deluded or too morally compromised to vote Trump out of office. It’s also my understanding that if no votes were cast by women, Trump would win. A majority of men are apparently either too deluded or too morally compromised to vote Trump out of office. What’s the matter with white people? What’s the matter with men? I don’t know. I only know that these are sad and sobering facts.

Notes from Surreal Land

David Remick, the editor of The New Yorker, observed in a recent interview: “Trump is cornered. There is nothing he won’t do.”

Yesterday, I learned that Trump evidently directed the mega-donor crony he installed as Postmaster General to slow down mail deliveries. The president of the United States wants to make mail service less efficient and reliable. Nothing will seem strange about that if you keep in mind that we’re living in surreal land.

If, as seems likely, Trump loses the election, his plan is to claim that mail-in voting produced a fraudulent outcome to the election, then declare the reported results to be void, initiate lawsuits in order to escalate doubts and confusion, remind everyone that under the Constitution he is the commander and chief of the armed forces, send every federal police unit and militia he can get his hands on to quell uprisings and protests he causes by such action, declare a national emergency requiring the imposition of martial law, and promise to hold a new properly conducted election in the fall of 2021. Undermining peoples’ faith in the postal service is part of this grand plan.

The Plight of a Local Newspaper

Like many regional newspapers, the dominant local newspaper in our area, The Durango Herald, struggles to maintain basic journalistic standards and still make a profit. It doesn’t help that political polarization in our area is probably as extreme as it is anywhere in the country. In our Congressional District race, the Democrats are running a moderately progressive candidate with strong experience as a county commissioner and state legislator. The Republicans are running a restaurant and bar owner, whose main publicity photo shows her wearing a sidearm and posed in front of a cluster of members of “Bikers for Trump.” Two motorcycles embellish the scene. The contrast with the Democratic candidate is stark.

     My observation of the Durango Herald is that they have tried to hew a non-controversial editorial policy, steering away from highly charged issues. I suspect that they are afraid of alienating a large number of subscribers if they express a clear-cut political preference. For the Herald, as for similarly situated newspapers, a fateful moment approaches. By late October, they will have to take clear-cut positions. They will have to earn the scorn of a large number of subscribers. 

The Republican Party and Plutocratic Populism

The Republican Party is controlled by the rich and the super rich. The Party elites like being rich and super rich; they want to be taxed less and get even richer, and to that end they want to cut government spending except to support their own interests, and they don’t care much about the plight of the middle class and the poor and disadvantaged. Because these elites comprise only a small minority of voters, to gain and retain power they have had to entice large numbers of voters whose economic interests would be better served under Democratic administrations.

Republican elites succeeded in accomplishing their aims by appealing to people for whom possession of firearms is of especially great importance, people for whom particular religious teachings are of especially great importance, and people motivated by their resentment of African Americans, immigrants, recipients of pubic assistance other than themselves, or those whom they have come to believe are dangerous socialists, liberals, or leftists.

Aided by highly partisan right-wing media, Republican elites succeeded in patching together a winning coalition of these disparate groups. The brand of political faith they successfully marketed has been well characterized as plutocratic populism. They’ll keep pitching it as long as it works.

Trump

In his online New York Times column last evening, Roger Cohen conveyed the German perspective on Trump and his strenuous efforts to subject the United States to autocratic rule. Cohen notes, “The German horror at Trump has many components. He’s the fear-mongering showman wielding nationalism, racism and violence . . . He is a fascist in the making.”

A Peripheral Major Tragedy

One of the dismaying effects of the pandemic is that critically important challenges are relegated to the periphery of debate and discussion. One of these is the shocking widening of the disparity of wealth and income over the past few decades and the threat it poses to our tattered society. A central question posed by the authors of the distinguished new book Let Them Eat Tweets is “How has the Republican Party persuaded so many working-class voters to support a plutocratic agenda that they often don’t like, and that often undermines their own livelihoods?” 

The Fooler in Chief

It would be nice if we could take comfort in Lincoln’s famous dictum: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Alas, you only have to fool most of the people some of the time to win an election. And with our electoral college system, in which the final result isn’t determined by the popular vote, you may not even have to fool most of the people some of the time. This year, Republicans will succeed in keeping some of the people who would be among most of the people from voting.  And even if Trump isn’t able to fool enough of the people to win the electoral college, he’ll try to fool enough of the  people into thinking the election was rigged against him. It’s concerning that, although Trump is deficient in every other human quality, he’s a master at fooling people, the result of intensive practice throughout his entire life.

The Present Trajectory of Events

The more outrageously Trump behaves, the more people will protest. The more they protest, the more federal camouflaged unidentified enforcement officers Trump will send in to round up protestors and intimidate them, which will elicit more protests, which must be subdued by greater force. No city can be left unprotected from the socialist leftist anarchist criminals terrorizing our nation. Only a strong authoritarian leader can save the country now. Certainly not Biden, who, along with Obama, allowed China to use the virus against us. 

Trump’s Strategy

Cause chaos and outrage, which will cause more mass protests, which he will blitz-tweet are the work of anarchists and left-wing extremists requiring tough tactics to subdue and restore America to the greatness he achieved before China, emboldened by Obama and Biden caving into them, unleashed the virus on our country. Launch such a torrent of tweets as will produce further outrage and protests until it becomes evident that authoritarian rule is necessary to subdue leftist extremists and anarchists and restore law and order and people learn that whatever happens in the election is meaningless because it was rigged by socialist extremists and criminals, and that only a strong determined leader can save America and protect traditional American values and bring back liberty and justice and a strong economy.

The Aspiring Autocrat at Work

Headline:  “Trump declines to say whether he’ll accept Nov. election results.”   

Trump’s strategy: Cause chaos and outrage, which will cause more mass protests, which he will blitz-tweet are the work of anarchists and left-wing extremists, requiring tough tactics to subdue and restore America to the greatness he had achieved, which will produce further outrage and protests until it becomes evident that authoritarian rule is necessary to enforce law and order, and people learn that whatever happens in the election is meaningless because it was rigged by socialist extremists and criminals, and that only a strong determined leader can save America and protect traditional American values and bring back liberty and justice and a strong economy for all.

Field Testing Fascism

Federal law enforcement officers have the legal right to protect federal buildings and other federal property. They do not have the right to leap out of unmarked cars, heavily armed and in camouflage gear, single out peaceful protestors, shove them into cars, fail to identify themselves or give any reason for their behavior, take their captives to a federal building and detain them for hours before releasing them. Despite the objections of the mayor and other officials, this has been happening Portland, Oregon.

These episodes are straight out of the fascist playbook. If Trump is reelected, he will claim that practices such as these have been approved by the people. He knows that the thoroughly cowed and craven Republican political establishment won’t push back. He will push the power of intimidation to the limit, if any limit is still in place. At the moment, these fascist techniques are being field tested. During a second Trump term they would become standard operating procedure.

What Barr Thinks

Headline: “Attorney General William Barr condemns U.S. tech companies for “kowtowing” to China.”

Now let’s all condemn Barr for kowtowing to Trump.

Note: Barr doesn’t think he’s kowtowing to Trump –– he thinks of Trump as a useful instrument for  pursuing his religious nationalistic authoritarian vision of America, which likely includes himself as the authoritarian leader in the post-Trump era.

Reading Agenda

I’m about to read “Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality. Among other topics, this new book by two political scientists talks about how “the Republican Party persuaded so many working-class voters to support a plutocratic agenda that they often don’t like, and that often undermines their own livelihoods.” If all the people whose lives have been damaged by Trump and his enablers knew how much he has hurt them and degraded the country, Trump vote totals would shrink to historically new levels.

Looking Back from the Future

New York Times opinion writer Nicholas Kristoff is distinctive in how often he thinks outside the frame of current events and controversies. In a recent column he considered how future generations will look back at the behavior of our generation.

Just as we look back in horror at what strikes us as barbaric behavior of respectable citizens in the past, people in the future may look back at our behavior with disgust, particularly, Kristoff speculates, in our cruelty toward billions of animals, most horrifically in factory farms, in our failing to act decisively to arrest climate change, and in our indifference to malnourished children living in extreme poverty, most of them in what to us, but not to them, are remote corners of the world.

Dispatches from Surreal Land

Dispatches from Surreal Land:  Almost Everyone Lies Constantly except Trump

A recent Trump Tweet: “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.”

When Autocratic Rule is Shoved in Your Face

Karen Cheung, a Hong Kong native who still lives there, wrote a lovely essay –– it appeared in last night’s online New York Times ––about what it’s like to live in a densely populated urban community with a tradition of independence and self-governing that overnight becomes fully subjected to repressive autocratic rule, which is what happened to that great city-state on July 1. Cheung’s article isn’t bitter or complaining. It’s a testament to the human spirit, a declaration of her refusal to relinquish joy in living.

Once Again

The Green Party nominated a candidate to run for president. I haven’t read the Party platform. If it advocates measures to aggressively curb fossil fuels, stimulate production of alternative energy, and reduce air and water pollution, there may be much to be said for it. But the Green Party decision to once again promote their own candidate rather than support the Democratic ticket is an act of rank stupidity. The same behavior almost certainly was responsible for the election Bush and the defeat of Gore in the 2000 election. By running a candidate in 2016, they helped Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. This year, once again there is zero chance that the Green Party candidate will be elected. The only effect of its efforts will be to hurt Biden and help Trump. These people think of themselves as idealists. In fact, they’re nihilists.

The Republican Truth Tellers

Employing powerful TV ads, George Conway, Steve Schmidt, and other prominent honorable Republicans involved in “The Lincoln Project” are getting the truth across about Trump’s dishonesty, incompetence, and profound unfitness to hold office. Their efforts are a stinging rebuke to members of their party who cravenly fail to repudiate our sociopathic president. They are true American heroes.

Corruption in Broad Daylight

Trump and Barr have become so bold that they don’t try to disguise their corruption and authoritarian ambitions. Trump commutes the sentence of Roger Stone, his partner in crime in abetting Russian efforts to help him win the 2016 election. Barr initiates criminal investigations of officials who exhibited higher loyalty to the United States Constitution and the rule of law than to Trump and fires U.S. Attorneys in key districts who have been conducting criminal investigations of Trump associates.

Roger Cohen, in his column appearing in last night’s online New York Times, notes that Trump recently tweeted: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”

Cohen continues: ‘Trump is preparing the ground to contest any loss to Joe Biden and remain president, aided, no doubt, by Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department.”

American democracy is in the fight of its life.

A Cheery Note

A highly plausible scenario is that Trump loses the election, he declares that his loss resulted from voter fraud, he refuses to leave office until the matter is resolved, and he initiates a slew of law suits hoping to keep the question of who won tied up in the courts indefinitely. 

In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, the distinguished Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe and two colleagues pointed out that cabinet members who tried to act in their appointed capacity on Trump’s behalf after a Trump loss could be subject to criminal prosecution.

It’s far from certain, but I think that more likely than not we’ll get through this nightmare: that Trump will be out of office by January 21, and that we’ll be able to begin the long and arduous task of repairing the damage.

Democracy Wins a Round in Defending Itself against Autocracy

In a pair of 7-2 decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s financial records are not exempt from subpoena in a New York State judicial proceeding and that, subject to meeting certain reasonable criteria, the same is true in the case of subpoenas issued by Congressional committees in the course of carrying out their oversight and legislative responsibilities.

These cases rejected Trump’s claims to king-like status by virtue of his being president. Thank goodness.

Trump-Biden Debate Prerequisite

Veteran New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has put forth a persuasive argument that Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if (i) Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. (Biden has already done so. Why should Trump be given a free pass on hiding his finances?); and (ii) ten minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate independent fact checkers “report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered.”

Why should Trump, who, it is well established, is a serial liar, be allowed to lie, bluff, and bluster his way through the debate without being held to account? Biden can rebut him: “That’s just not true, Mr. President. That’s just not true,” again and again. But Trump will express outrage at Biden’s accusations, deny them, go off on tangents, and bring more lies to bear on what will amount to a brawl rather than a reasoned debate.

Trump won’t play by the rules voluntarily. He should be forced to. 

If Biden set such conditions, Trump will almost certainly opt out of the debates, claiming that Biden insisted on ridiculous conditions because he was afraid to debate him. They aren’t ridiculous. They make all the sense in the world. Most people would understand that.

 

Continuous Astonishment

I’m continuously astonished that, even though Trump is patently a clear and present danger to America and to the entire world, Republicans haven’t forced him to withdraw his candidacy in favor of a member of their party who is honorable, conscientious, and competent, Instead, a vast majority of Republicans continue to support him.

At this point, every Trump supporter in the United States, without exception, is either uninformed, deluded, or morally deficient.

The Heart and Soul of Our Country

The far-right Republican candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, Lauren Boebert, has proclaimed that she’s battling for the “heart and soul of our country.” Since she’s identified herself as “an avid Trump supporter,” what better way to ascertain how she envisages the heart and soul of our country than by reading Trump’s iconic Fourth of July speech at the Mount Rushmore National Monument. The full text is available on the internet, but you can learn all you need to know about it from Jennifer Rubin’s description of the speech as a “raving, paranoid one peddling hate and dystopia.”

A New Low

Our intelligence agencies reported to Trump that Russia was paying the Taliban a bounty for each American soldier they killed. Trump said he was never briefed about it, and that the report was a hoax. He showed no concern about our dead soldiers. He showed no concern about our intelligence agencies.  He showed concern only for getting on with campaign rallies, bands playing, flags flying, bombs bursting in mid-air, jets fighters flying overhead, and statues.

U.S. Ambassador Russian Michael McFaul observed in an online Washington Post column yesterday, “Trump has been subservient to Putin throughout his presidency, but this latest moment of indifference — silence about the killing of American soldiers — marks a new low.”

Republican senators, all but one of whom stood arm to arm to protect Trump from being removed from office, remain silent. They, too, care more about their political futures than about the nation they promised, on their oath, to serve.

“A Cheap, Simple Way to Control the Coronavirus”

When I see a headline like this, I’m likely to think, oh sure, and turn the page. This time I read the article. To my surprise, it would be possible to supply most Americans with a year’s supply of Covid-19 do-it-your-self daily virus test kits at a cost of something like $3 a day per person –– simple as pie, spit on a paper strip with results in 15-minutes. Not 100% accurate but close enough to it. Test positive and you self-quarantine. This could slow down spreading tremendously. The cost in the U.S. might be something like 300 billion dollars a year. It would be a good investment.

It’s in the category of good things that might happen.

Why Trump Can’t Change

Why can’t Trump act more in his own self-interest? Why does he so desperately seek praise? Why is he so obtuse about what would bring it forth?

In a recent Washington Post column, Jennifer Rubin provided us with the answer to such questions: “Character this twisted is destiny. Unfitness this severe is irreparable.”

A Sign of the Times

We had a stunning political development in Tuesday’s primary elections in our red, but not deep-red, Colorado 3rd Congressional District.

My candidate, Diane MItsch Bush, a capable progressive veteran state legislator, handily won the Democratic primary, but had been given little chance to unseat the heavily-financed five-term Republican incumbent, Scott Tipton, a smooth-talking, unwavering Trump loyalist and faithful follower of the GOP agenda.

It’s a commentary on the transformation of the Republican Party that, despite Tipton’s sterling right-wing voting record, he was deemed too far to the left for a decisive majority of C. D. 3 Republicans, who voted to dump him in favor of Lauren Boebert, a 33-year-old bar owner, from the town of Rifle, with no experience in public service and who appears to be more Trumpian than Trump. Chances that our district would flip from red to blue skyrocketed overnight.

Barr and American Democracy

Recent Headlines:

Washington Post: “Four ways William Barr is already subverting the 2020 elections”

New York Times:  “Inside Barr’s Effort to Undermine Prosecutors in New York”

Next to Trump, Attorney General William Barr is the most dangerous person in the United States. He is not a slavish Trump toady, like Mike Pence, for example. He is a strong-minded religious nationalist with a pathological attraction to  authoritarian rule. Like Trump, he should be impeached, convicted in a trial in the senate, and removed from office. This would happen were the senate not controlled by Republicans who have lost their moral compass and ignored their solemn duties in the course of pursuing personal political, economic, and idealogical agendas.

American Democracy is and will remain in the intensive care unit until Inauguration day, January 20, 2021, whereupon it will be either be pronounced dead or need to enter a long period  of rehab.

Trump and Republican Senators

It’s undisputed. Our intelligence agencies knew by February that Russia (i.e. Putin) was paying the Taliban a bounty for each American soldier they killed. Intelligence officials say they briefed Trump on this matter at the time. Trump did nothing about it. Confronted with the facts, Trump says that he was never briefed about the matter. Trump is clearly lying. If he had not been briefed about it he would be outraged. Instead he has treated the matter as if it were of no more consequence than if a mouse had been found in the White House kitchen. 

Appalling as Trump’s behavior is, it’s of a piece with what we’ve come to expect of him. No less a tragedy of our times than his holding the reins of power is that Republican senators and cabinet members fail to repudiate him and make it their mission to remove him from office.

Our Viral Future, continued

Thanks to some informed feedback, what follows is a revision of “my understanding” of the situation. Excisions are in brackets. Additions in italics.

{My guess is that} A widely available safe and effective vaccine or solidly effective antiviral drug, as distinguished from a Trump/Pence fantasy of one, is at least a couple of years away. 

Until a vaccine is widely available, we’ll likely experience continuing cycles of tighter and looser restrictions with roughly inverse correlations of falling and rising numbers of cases. 

Over time, more and more people will have been infected and may have developed immunity, (it not being known to what degree and for how long).

CDC recently estimated that there may have been at least ten times as many cases as have been reported. This is because a lot of infected people have no symptoms or minor symptoms and don’t get tested. 

{It appears that people who have been infected will have immunity lasting at least until a vaccine is available.} By a year from now it’s possible that half the people in the country will have been infected, recovered, are non-communicative, and have immunity. A wide variety of other scenarios are possible as well.

At some point, we’ll reach {“herd” immunity,} a state where, even though rules have been very much relaxed, the average infected person infects fewer than one other person. Then the numbers of communicable people and numbers of new cases begin fall. One can then feel increasingly less imprudent engaging in traditional activities involving close proximity to others.

     It’s shocking how much is still unknown about this virus.

Our Viral Future

My guess is that a widely available safe and effective vaccine or solidly effective antiviral drug (as distinguished from a Trump/Pence fantasy of one) is still a couple of years away. What follows is my understanding of the situation:

     Until a vaccine is widely available, we’ll likely experience continuing cycles of tighter and looser restrictions with inverse correlations of falling and rising numbers of cases. Over time, more and more people will have been infected and developed immunity. CDC recently estimated that there may have been at least ten times as many cases as have been reported. This is because a lot of people have no symptoms or minor symptoms and don’t get tested. It appears that people who have been infected will have immunity lasting at least until a vaccine is available. By a year from now it’s possible that half the people in the country will have been infected, gotten over it, are non-communicative, and have immunity. At some point, we’ll reach “herd” immunity, a state where, even though rules have been very much relaxed, the average infected person infects fewer than one other person. Then the numbers of communicable people and numbers of new cases begin steadily falling even when precautions have been almost done away with. One can then feel increasingly less imprudent engaging in traditional activities involving close proximity to others.

What’s Wrong with Middle Aged White Men?

Most polls show Biden leading Trump by comfortable margins among nearly all segments of voters. A segment that favors Trump is that of white men between 50 and 64. 

Men that age should be pretty mature. They’ve had ample life experience to have developed good judgment. What’s wrong with them?

 In my view, the main driving force causing people to support Trump is resentment. It would appear that most of these middle-age men have lived long enough to have given up on their dreams; that most of them feel that life/society has let them down. A lot of them seem to be resentful.

Trump is resentful. He is resentful of critics; resentful of constrictions imposed on him by virtue of our constitutional system. He constantly expresses resentfulness and contempt for those who fail to admire him.

Trump’s mood of resentfulness infects the nation, most so, it seems, the population of middle aged men. Democrats must run inspiring campaigns to snap them out of it.

Trump’s Contingency Plan

Headline: “White House intensifies effort to install Pentagon personnel seen as loyal to Trump.”  

Trump and his advisors are undoubtedly planning a strategy to follow if he loses the election. Following first principles, he will claim that massive voting fraud occurred; he will call it the worst crime ever committed in American history. He will refuse to concede defeat or prepare for transition of power.  He will launch lawsuits in an attempt to decertify results. He will call for a new election. Trump loyalists in the senate will launch investigations. His media allies will claim that the election results were fabricated.

Trump would like to be able to call on our military forces to stave off any effort to remove him.

Checks and Balances

Checks and balances are of the essence of our constitutional system, which was designed to protect our democracy from autocratic rule. The U.S. Constitution, as amended, is one of the great achievements of humankind, but it doesn’t provide a mechanism for checking a corrupt president who is supported by a corrupt majority of senators of his party, a corrupt attorney general, and corrupt judges in critical positions. 

American democracy is on the ropes, and Trump and his allies are doing everything they can to knock it out of the ring, before he is voted out of office and forced to relinquish power.

Trump’s Truth Department

Headline: “Trump family seeks to block book by niece that calls him ‘world’s most dangerous man.’” 

Trump and his aides are like a fire department, fires being truths. Truths keep flaring up all over the place, and Trump’s Truth Department spends a lot of time and energy rushing here and there trying to put them out before they flare out of control. It’s not easy.

Nervous Apprehension

Trump feels nervous apprehension about the election. He has aptly been compared to an animal that is all the more dangerous when cornered. 

Not one whose decisions are subject to Constitutional or ethical considerations, Trump is determined to win even if he loses. Covid-19 virus constraints will impede the electoral process. Trump and his allies will do make everything they can to suppress voting and make the election as chaotic as possible. In the event of adverse results at the polls, expect Trump’s allies, aided by Trump’s authoritarian-minded Attorney General, William Barr, to file lawsuits and launch a propaganda campaign of unprecedented intensity. Trump is not alone in feeling nervous apprehension. Nearly everyone I know is too.

The Wrong Justice Department Official Lost His Job This Weekend

The title above is that of a today’s New York Times op-ed by former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who himself was fired by Trump for  repeatedly demonstrated integrity. Bharara commented on the ham-handed firing of the current holder of that office, Geoffrey Berman, a Republican and donor to the Trump campaign, who chose to be faithful to his oath of office and the rule of law, a concept so foreign to Trump that he has almost insuperable difficulty imagining that others would give it any thought. The firing was conducted by Barr and Trump in a way that would be surprising if it had occurred in any other administration: Each asserted that the act was instigated by the other.  

Bharara’s op-ed is masterful in its clarity and its temperate tone and language. Mindful of the principle that writers should avoid excess words, he didn’t name the Justice Department official who should have lost his job,

Barr’s Brain

What goes on in the brain of Attorney General William Barr? Why would a man so well-educated and financially secure be willing to betray his oath of office and defy the Constitution in order to aide and perpetuate in power a blustering, ignorant, narcissistic aspiring autocrat who has the heart and the soul of a thug?

I think the answer is that Barr, a religious nationalist, finds psychic satisfaction in the notion of a society governed by higher authority, and he recognized that Trump was an instrument he could take in hand to pursue that goal. What I don’t think Barr realizes is that he himself is in the grip of a higher authority, a dangerous cerebral condition over which he has no control. 

Another Step on the Road to Autocracy

Trump took a big step forward this past week in his relentless efforts to convert the United States of America from a democracy to an autocracy, once again with the shameful blessing of the Republican-controlled senate, installing a loyalist hack as head of the Voice of America. The hack immediately dismissed all the capable, independent, experienced, honorable division heads preparatory to replacing them with sub-hacks. The goal: to convert this long-standing, effective, non-partisan, internationally respected journalistic enterprise into a disseminator of Trumpist propaganda.

Informed Honorable Republicans Will Vote Democratic

Prior to the Trumpian era, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin was a Republican. Her column was titled “Right Turn.” It must dismay Trump and allies that she is an honorable person, someone who favors truth over falsehood and right over wrong. Accordingly, she wrote yesterday, “Senate Republicans. . . were and are enablers of the most destructive president in our history and deserve — every last one of them — to be booted out of office.”   

Bolton’s Book

Judging by Jennifer Szalai’s review, which I read in the online New York Times, of the long anticipated book by former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, the truth spilling out of it about Trump’s ignorance and perfidy to his oath of office, while damning, is so shot through with Bolton’s egotistically pumped-up self-justifications and so interlaced with immaterial raw excerpts from his over-detailed notebooks as to land with a thud and have little impact on the question of Trump’s fitness to hold his present office. 

Boton’s book evidently does show clearly that Trump should be removed from the White House, but it amounts to no more than another scrap added to an already mile-high pile of evidence.

Truth is Spilling Out All Over

Trump’s efforts to bluster and lie his way to reelection have been encountering increasing difficulty. Repeating and embroidering big lies is standard practice for autocrats, but so many facts countering the Administration’s false narratives have been spilling out that Trump’s support appears more likely that not to erode before the election. 

Trump’s lawsuit to prevent former National Security Director John Bolton’s tell-(mostly)-all book from being published June 23 has roughly zero chance of success. That particular chunk of truth, either poured or leaked, will be spilling out next week.

What Do Honorable Republicans Think? (Continued)

My Republican friend replied at length to the questions I referred to in my blog yesterday. He acknowledged that “the Republican Party has  been  taken over by conservatives and as a consequence strayed from  the principles” I listed. (I should have used the word “betrayed” rather than “strayed” –– it’s far more accurate.)  And it would have been more accurate for him to say that the Republican Party has been taken over from conservatives by unprincipled opportunists, religious nationalists, and protofacists. He did remark, “No comments necessary on his tweets or crude press remarks!” So he isn’t happy about that aspect of Trump. This doesn’t count for much, however, because all Trump loyalists except the most slavish of his sycophantic following find this aspect of Trump to be unfortunate, but dismiss it as being in the category of “We all have our little flaws.”

My friend offered his opinion on what it would take for the Democrats to defeat Trump, but he didn’t say whom he would vote for, and he credited Trump, saying that he “has and is addressing issues which for years were kicked down the street.”

 What issues? How did he address them and how is he currently addressing them? And who kicked them down the street?” These are my next questions for my old Republican friend.

What Do Honorable Republicans Think?

Over the weekend, I had an enjoyable phone conversation with an old friend, a longstanding Republican with whom I had been almost completely out of touch for decades. Our lengthy conversation ended before we got talking about politics. When I later wrote him, I asked:

“Would you agree that the Republican Party and the vast majority of Republican office holders have strayed from basic principles traditionally held by Republicans: civility, honesty, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, fiscal responsibility, competency in government, forging and nurturing  alliances with other democracies, exercising leadership in international initiatives and institutions dedicated to betterment of the world, and, apart from some notable lapses during the Cold War, defending democracy and human rights against dictatorial and authoritarian abuse in all quarters?

‘The reign of Trump and his entourage has been a spectacle of gross betrayal of every one of these principles; yet, with only the feeblest or rarest exceptions, Republican members of Congress have gone along with  Trump every step of the way, most of them, apparently, as one commentator put it, “out of fear that they’ll get tweeted out of their office and not get elected the next go-round.” In my view, the Republican Party has become so corrupted that it needs to be reconstituted, a process that should begin with a great many more prominent Republicans renouncing Trump and Trumpism in all its forms.”

I hope he’ll write back and let me know what he thinks.

What Do Decent, Honorable, Well-Informed People Who Have Been Longstanding Republicans Think These Days?

Over the weekend, I had an enjoyable phone conversation with an old friend, a longstanding Republican whom I had been almost completely out of touch with for decades.  Our lengthy conversation ended before we got talking about politics, but when I wrote him afterwards, I asked:

“Would you agree that the Republican Party and the vast majority of Republican office holders have strayed from basic principles traditionally held by Republicans: civility, honesty, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, fiscal responsibility, competency in government, forging and nourishing alliances with other democracies, exercising leadership in international initiatives and institutions dedicated to betterment of the world, and, apart from some notable lapses during the Cold War, defending democracy and human rights against dictatorial and authoritarian abuse in all quarters?

‘The reign of Trump and his entourage has been a spectacle of gross betrayal of every one of these principles; yet, with only the feeblest or rarest exceptions, Republican members of Congress have gone along with  Trump every step of the way, most of them, apparently, as one commentator put it, “out of fear that they’ll get tweeted out of their office and not get elected the next go-round.” In my view, the Republican Party has become so corrupted that it needs to be reconstituted, a process that should begin with a great many more prominent Republicans renouncing Trump and Trumpism in all its forms.”

I hope he’ll write back and let me know what he thinks.

Sociopaths and the Treasury

In her book The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout notes that sociopaths are often very successful. It can work to your advantage if you are devoid of empathy, have no conscience, and no sense of shame, although some such people notably get their comeuppance. 

Robert Reich reports and comments: “The careless greed of Trump and his family never ceases to amaze me. Last year, Don Jr. charged American taxpayers more than $75,000 for an exotic 8-day hunting trip in Mongolia. The goal of the trip was to hunt a threatened Mongolian sheep in the remote reaches of the country. In just the past three years, the Trumps’ excursions have already exhausted the Secret Service’s entire personnel budget. Remember, these are the same people who want to cut federal funding for the poor, elderly, and sick. But when it comes to their own lavish lifestyles, they have no problem raiding the treasury. We can’t vote these cronies out of office soon enough.”

Looking Ahead to the Elections

The Trump-enabling Republican-controlled senate, led by Mitch McConnell, has caused great harm to our country. To begin to repair the damage will require that Democrats win the presidency, keep control of the House, and gain control of the senate, where Democrats need to win a net minimum of three or four seats –– the more the better. The last of these tasks is the most challenging, but an analysis yesterday by Washington Post opinion writers suggests that chances of it happening, at least at the moment, are slightly better than even. It’s also lately been looking more likely that Trump will be defeated. To say we’re not out of the woods yet would be an extravagant understatement.

Case Study of a Journalistic Failure

I’m among those that believe that local and regional newspapers run by people who are committed to principles of competent, honest, and objective journalism are vital to the healthy workings of a democracy. The internet has subjected most such newspapers to severe financial pressure, generating fear of alienating significant portions of their readership, being called a liberal mouthpiece or a right-wing propagandist and losing subscribers and advertisers as a result.

My local paper is in this position, and I think it has adversely affected the quality of their editorials, which lately have avoided taking a clear-headed, principled stance on important issues. It was dispiriting this morning to read its endorsement for the Congressional Democratic primary race of a distinctly unpromising candidate because he “would be less partisan and able to provide some of the collaboration Congress requires.” The editors evidently thought it would be too risky to endorse his opponent. the capable, progressive, principled representative our district and Congress needs.

Barr and Hope

Attorney General William Barr, who has succeeded to a shocking degree in turning the Justice Department into an illicit political instrument of Trump –– harassing and trolling those who have stood up for the rule of law in defiance of Trump’s criminality and working diligently to shield Trump’s abettors from adverse consequences of due process of law –– encountered a stumbling block the other day, when the retired judge hired by the judge overseeing Barr’s attempt to rescue convicted perjurer and Trump henchman Michael Flynn from the operation of the criminal justice system, concluded: 

“The reasons offered by the Government are so irregular, and so obviously pretextual, that they are deficient. Moreover, the facts surrounding the filing of the Government’s motion constitute clear evidence of gross prosecutorial abuse. They reveal an unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to dismiss that is based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.”

There’s still hope that our democracy can be saved from a fascistic takeover.

Primary Voting Research

In the next week I have to mail in my primary ballot and vote for one of the two Democratic contenders –– John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff -–– to run against U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, a faithful Trumpian who pretends he thinks for himself and that he cares about his constituents and the country more than he does about remaining in office at any cost, but doesn’t. I know which of the two Democrats I’d prefer to see in the senate, but that probably won’t affect my vote, which will be for the one I think is most likely to oust Gardner. Today I’m going to call my friend in Denver who’s an expert on Colorado politics and see what he thinks.

A Decent Man

Running for president in 2012, Mitt Romney showed no awareness of the harsh inequities brought about by unbridled capitalism, but he was the sole Republican senator to vote for removing Trump from office in the impeachment trial. Sunday, he marched with Black Lives Matter protestors, for which Trump mocked him. Romney is deeply misguided in some respects, but in striking contrast to Trump, he has moral convictions. He is a decent man.

Good News Items

It was good to read in the online New York Times last night that New York City, having met required metrics, such as, for example, rate of new hospitalizations, rate of testing, and consistent decline in hospital deaths, is beginning to open up, cautiously and systematically. The line tracking good news items each day may possibly be turning up. A day may come, I’m bold enough to hope, when they surpass the bad news ones.

Real Religious Leaders

Real Religious Leaders, as distinguished from what Jennifer Rubin aptly characterizes as Trump’s “evangelical lackeys,” sharply rebuked Trump’s latest display of phony piety last week. As Rubin underscored: “Faith requires that we treat our fellow men and women with empathy, kindness, respect and generosity. Faith instructs us to eschew prejudice, misuse of power and ‘domination’ of the weak and the poor.”

Trump Sinks Ever Lower Than We Can Imagine

Yesterday, bragging about unexpected improvement in the unemployment rate, referring to the black man murdered by application of a policeman’s knee upon his neck for over eight minutes, Trump said, “Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. It’s a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody.”

With every layer lower in the muck Trump sinks, those who support him sink with him.

American Democracy — Signs of Life

Some high-ranking present and former military officials have very recently made clear that their loyalty is to the Constitution of the United States and the values it represents rather than to a man who is the commander and chief of the armed forces but flagrantly violates his oath to uphold the law under which he holds his office. That Trump’s behavior has become unacceptably revolting for many who are traditionally inclined to be unquestioning of authority indicates that American democracy is showing signs of life.

American Democracy –– Will It Live or Die?

Democracies typically morph into a dictatorship when the most powerful general in the country seizes power. For a civilian to succeed in attaining dictatorial rule, complicity on the part of the military is essential. The Founding Fathers, drafters of the U.S. Constitution, sought to establish a system of government that was protected as much as possible against a military takeover. To that end, they provided that the president, rather than a military leader, would be the commander and chief of our country’s armed forces.

What happens when a civilian who is a demagogue and aspiring despot is allowed to stay in power by a phalanx of corrupt and dishonorable senators who ignore his commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, refuse to remove him from office upon justly deserved impeachment, and allow him to place in office a fascistic minded attorney general, secretary of defense, and other powerful officials?

Then, ironically, the military becomes democracy’s last line of defense. The question becomes “Will the top military commanders block the autocratic takeover of our government or will they be complicit in extinguishing our democracy?”

It was a bad sign that General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put on his combat fatigues and traipsed around outside the White House grounds the other night with Trump and the secretary of defense while military forces tear-gassed peaceful demonstrators.

If Trump loses the election November 3rd (unless it’s by an overwhelming landslide), it is virtually certain that he will refuse to concede defeat, initiate a barrage of false claims of voting fraud, direct his autocratically minded attorney general to bring lawsuits in an effort to invalidate election results, and insist that he has a right to remain in office rather than acquiesce in a peaceful transition of power as is required under the Constitution and in keeping with the sacred traditions of our country.

In this event, protests and demonstrations will ensue that dwarf all previous instances by a wide margin, and our top military commanders will face a fateful moment of truth. We have no idea where their highest loyalties would prove to lie.

Trump Stunts

Having visited an Episcopal church Monday evening for the purpose of being videoed and photographed in front of it holding a bible, the idea being, I suppose, “If you are religious, vote for me, because, as you can see from this photo, I’m religious, which should be obvious because I’m holding a bible,” to make sure Catholics don’t feel left out, yesterday Trump visited a shrine to a recent Pope. I didn’t see it reported that he stood in front of it with a Rosary or a Catholic Missal –– maybe he’s getting cocky, imagining that devout Catholics will vote for him merely because he visited a place associated with Catholicism. Surrounded and supported by dishonorable and incompetent people, the only kind who will work for him, Trump tirelessly fashions stunts.

Beyond Weird

Last evening Trump ordered security forces to fire tear gas on peaceful protestors outside the White House preparatory to his walking to a nearby church so he could be photographed holding a bible. He had a two-fold objective: first, to make himself look like a tough law-and-order president, and second, to make himself look religious. What, after all, could be more Christian than teargassing people, then walking to a church and standing there holding a bible? 

Yet Republicans still play the game of Let’s Pretend That Allowing This Man To Remain in Office Isn’t a Continuing Clear and Present Danger to the United States of America.

It’s beyond fecklessness. It’s beyond shamelessness. It’s beyond weird.

What the Protests Are About

Many of the protestors and rioters may be demonstrating solely against the racially motivated police brutality exemplified in the killing of George Floyd. I suspect that for even greater numbers, that wretched event served as a catalyst that propelled them out on the streets, and that their feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction range over the entire state of affairs in our hapless country, most particularly the triumph of cynicism, greed and selfishness over concern for the common good.

Beating the Same Drum

Politics is only of peripheral interest to me. Sometimes I feel that I should write about something else, something besides how awful Trump is and how awful Trump enablers are. I think the reason I keep beating the same drum is that I’m ever mindful of Christiane Amanpour’s exhortation after the 2016 election: “Fight against the normalization of the unacceptable.” The sad thing is that the fight has been lost: Trump’s hating and hateful character, ever renewing itself, bursts ceaselessly out of his bloated persona and spreads across the land: a self-renewing flood of toxic waste impossible to contain behind a dam. 

The Two Types of Trump Supporters

By this point, any minimally informed person of good will should be able to judge whether Trump is morally and mentally fit to be president of the United States. There now remain only two types of people who would vote for him under any circumstances: (i) those who are driven by greed, resentment, or nihilism, and (ii) those who are deluded or have been misled. As Jennifer Rubin recently stated in one of her Washington Post columns: “Republicans’ failure to convict {Trump} at his Senate impeachment trial and willingness to line up behind him as their nominee make them morally culpable for his conduct.” It’s both shocking and tragic that the Republican Party has descended to such a base moral plane.

Biden’s Pick For V-P Candidate

To maximize chances of getting rid of Trump, Democrats must elicit a strikingly high turnout among black voters. The stench of yet another clearly unjustified killing of a black man by police officers, this time in Minneapolis, will seep into every corner and niche of the country and linger until past election day even if similar incidents are avoided in the coming months. I agree with those who think that Biden should pick a black woman to run with him. Names of several who are amply qualified come readily to mind. The candidate should not only be black, she should be someone whose commitment to reverse, remedy, and provide recompense for racial injustice should be clearly evident and convincing to justifiably skeptical voters.

Life After Trump

If Trump departs from the White House this coming January, trumpets should sound, and church bells should ring throughout the land. But even if Trump is gone, a great many of his allies, enablers, and boosters will remain in positions of power and, with few exceptions, continue to defile our principles and degrade our democracy. The ever perspicacious Katrina vanden Heuvel nailed it in one of her recent Washington Post columns: “But while Trump emits his own unique forms of venom, he is a reflection of, not a contrast to, today’s Republican Party.”

A Critical Task for Democrats

I read that, in 2016, 900,000 eligible black voters in Georgia didn’t vote. I also read that “the greatest danger is a feeling of hopelessness.” It’s likely that a lot of these people didn’t vote because they felt the situation was hopeless; that it wouldn’t matter if they vote. There’s a good chance that the upcoming election will turn on whether Democrats succeed in giving people like this realistic cause for hope.

Trump’s Stock in Trade

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen: “Autocracy feeds on fear, misery, resentment and lies.”

Greed, Power, and Trump

In this time of crisis, when so many people are slipping into poverty and health-imperiling deprivation, Trump and his allies have remained intent on tightening access to food stamps and have diverted much in the way of economic relief to the rich, the super rich, and political allies. Because of voter suppression and because the popular vote will not be decisive in the November election, Trump needs only to fool some of the people some of the time to further degrade our democracy and impose on us longer and more painfully his reign of mean-spiritedness, greed, resentment, misery, and lies.

Statistical Analysis of Medical Tests

I finally figured out how to calculate the probability that you are positive if you tested positive on a medical test.  To accomplish this, you have to have requisite data, as I have assumed I have in this hypothetical: 

Assume that a test yields a false positive 2% of the time. 

Assume that 10% of the test takers are actually positive.

You take the test and test positive.

 Problem: What are the odds that you are positive?

 Solution: Either you are positive and tested positive, or you are negative and tested false positive.

Assume 1000 people take the test.

Of the 100 who are actually positive, 98 test positive.

Of the 900 who are actually negative, 18 tested false positive. 

So, of the 1,000 taking the test, you were one of 116 test takers who tested positive.

So the odds are 98 out of 116 that you were a true positive. 

Therefore there’s a 83.05%  chance that you are a true positive.

 

Biden’s “You ain’t black” Gaffe

Biden is just about the most seasoned politician in America. Where are his political instincts? Why don’t they kick in when the thought of saying if you’re a Trump supporter “you ain’t black”? I know why that utterance occurred to him, but I don’t know why he hasn’t developed a monitor in his brain that warns him in time that this would be a self-destructive thing to say.

If there wasn’t sufficient reason for Biden to pick a black running mate before –– and I think there was ––  there is now. In my opinion Kamala Harris should be the one. And if she is, Stacey Abrams and a lot of other people should be relentless in getting the point across, particularly to black women voters, that they can help America set on a path to having a black woman president, and not have to wait that long for it to happen.

Antibodies Test Statistical Analysis Reconsidered

The other day, concerning my antibodies test, I wrote that “If the test shows a false positive only 1% of the time {as my test was claimed to}, that doesn’t mean that, if you test positive, there’s only a 1% chance it’s a false positive. Your chance of a false positive is affected by how many people who take the test are positive, and how many are not. For example, if out of 1,000 people who take the test, only 10% are positive, out of the 900 people who aren’t positive, 1% –– 9 people –– will test false positive. So, if you are test taker #1,001, you’re roughly nine times more likely to be a false positive than a true positive.” Then I said, “I think I have that right.” Reflecting upon this in the middle of the night, I began to doubt it. Suppose 10,000 people, instead of 1,000, have taken the test. Then of the 9,000 people who aren’t positive, 1% –– 90 people –– will test positive. So, by my logic, if you’re test taker #10,001, you’re 90 times more likely to be a false positive than a true positive.

That can’t be right. Why would the likelihood of your being a false positive depend on how many people have taken the test, and vary so widely? Something’s wrong here. I’ll investigate further.

Dual Tragedies

Serial lying no longer being sufficient to divert attention from his failings and follies, Trump has resorted to constructing whole swaths of alternative false history in a bid to delude greater numbers of people into imagining that he is morally and mentally fit to be president. To this end, despite the lack of a shred of evidence to support it, he has invented a new rallying cry – “OBAMAGATE,” which he calls “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!”

As great a tragedy as  having a sociopath in the White House is that so many people in powerful positions accept and even participate in his monstrous scams.

My Antibodies Test, concluded

My antibodies test came back negative, meaning that, despite some Covid-19 symptoms that accompanied the viral respiratory infection I came down with in mid-February after four days in New York City, my malady was almost certainly not Covid-19. This was a disappointing result; yet, even if my test had come back positive, I wouldn’t have felt I had a license to be less cautious, because a positive test result would likely have been a false positive for reasons I discussed in yesterdays’s blog. How likely, I have no idea because the woman who called from my doctor’s office with the results had no information about what percent of results are coming in positive and what percent negative in our area. 

My Antibodies Test

In mid-February, after spending four days in New York City, I developed a respiratory viral infection that featured certain symptoms associated with Covid-19. Yesterday I had an antibodies test that is supposed to be 99% accurate. I expect to learn the results today. You can’t evaluate the results of these tests without some statistical analysis. If the test shows a false positive only 1% of the time, that doesn’t mean that, if you test positive, there’s only a 1% chance it’s a false positive. Your chance of a false positive is affected by how many people who take the test are positive, and how many are not. For example, if out of 1,000 people who take the test, only 10% are positive, out of the 900 people who aren’t positive, 1% –– 9 people –– will test false positive. So, if you are test taker #1001, you’re roughly nine times more likely to be a false positive than a true positive.

I think I have that right.

When I get my test results today, I’m going to try to find out what percent of the people who have taken the test in my cohort, if there is such a thing as my cohort, tested positive. I’ll be surprised if I get a straight answer to this question. Even if I do, I’m not sure it will help me figure out what the odds are that I really do have antibodies even if my test came out positive.

America’s Democracy Is in the Fight of Its Life

In a chilling op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post, Evelyn N. Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia who is presently running for Congress, describes the cynical, phony, Putin-style, extreme right-wing tactics mounted against her. “In President Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” she writes, “disinformation and intimidation tactics are commonly used to silence domestic opposition. . . False allegations, followed by contradictory, also false, narratives are the norm in Russian media and political discourse. . . In Trump’s America, similar tactics are taking hold.”

Trump and his allies aren’t content with telling bald-faced lies, they are constructing elaborate false constructions of recent and current history, dressing them up with phony investigations, and disseminating them with mock outrage in a full-court press assault on truth, decency, and fairness. This year, like no other, our democracy is fighting for its life.

Trump: a Case of Res Ipsa Loquitur

If voting were limited to regular viewers of Fox News, the right-wing propaganda TV channel, would Trump be sure to win the election? Apparently so, though it’s hard to understand why, if, as I assume, Fox shows clips of Trump speaking from time to time. His extreme unfitness for office is evident from his utterances and body language alone. No further evidence should be necessary, though there are mountains of it from which I take it most Fox News viewers are never exposed.

Another Day in Surreal Land

Not the worst of Trump’s utterances and actions yesterday, but unacceptably bad, was his expressed hostility to testing on the ground that the more testing you do, the more cases you find, whereas if you test less, you have fewer cases.               

This is the logic of a mad man. Trump’s has a sick and twisted mind. Every day he remains in office is tragedy renewed. His supporters should slink away in shame. 

The American Psychosis on Display

The most disgusting image I’ve seen on TV lately is that of the assemblage of goons assembled in front of the Michigan capitol building protesting lockdowns in place to suppress spread of the Covid-19 virus. With their signs and automatic weapons and American flags and confederate flags, and their posturing, and their mindless grinning and restless looks, they epitomize the American psychosis of bellicosity and resentment nurtured by Trump and countenanced by Republican politicians. As Jennifer Rubin noted recently in a Washington Post column, “President Trump has cemented the Republican Party as the home of xenophobia, racism, anti-intellectualism, cruelty and lawlessness.”

 

Trump’s Role Model

George Soros: “In Hungary, Viktor Orbán has already used the COVID-19 emergency and a captured parliament to legally appoint himself dictator.”

Democratic control of the House of Representatives is probably all that has kept Trump from achieving de facto autocratic power. 

Barr, Trump, and the Law

Headline: “More than 1,900 former Justice Department employees again call for Barr to resign {for} moving to drop the case against Michael Flynn.”

Barr should be impeached and removed, just as Trump should have been impeached and removed. Barr is a traitor to American democracy. Ditto the Republican senators who voted not to remove Trump from office after he was impeached. Their acceding to Trump’s claim that he is above the law is the only thing that has kept him in office and out of prison.

UFOs

Headline in Vox: “It’s time to take UFOs seriously.”

 No it’s not.

The Growing Crisis

In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, titled “The Storm We Can’t See,” Garrett M. Graff makes a strong case for his assertion that we haven’t begun to grasp how much damage the pandemic will do. Our survival as an ordered society is at stake. 

We need to keep job positions viable; not have them evaporate, or if they must evaporate, help workers find employment in new endeavors, including ones in the nature of public works programs such as kept the wolf from the door for tens of millions during the Great Depression. We need to support people impoverished by this catastrophe. Our first responsibility is to those who would lack adequate nourishment, shelter, and health care without public help. 

Graff suggests that, if we escape a crisis “only” on the scale of the Great Depression, we would be lucky. There’s a very good chance that he’s right.

.

A Sampling of Recent Observations as to How Trump Has Made America Great Again

Nature Magazine: “The EPA is becoming a shell of its former self.  Its leaders have chosen to abdicate leadership, disregard evidence and expose the country’s environment and health to risk of further degradation.” 

Timothy Egan in the New York Times: “A country that turned out eight combat aircraft every hour at the peak of World War II could not produce enough 75-cent masks or simple cotton nasal swabs for testing in this pandemic.”

Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post: “President Trump has cemented the Republican Party as the home of xenophobia, racism, anti-intellectualism, cruelty and lawlessness.”

A Dark Day for Democracy

Yesterday the Justice Department has dropped its prosecution of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Robert Reich commented: “Flynn had previously pleaded guilty twice to lying to F.B.I. agents . . . is getting zero jail time for lying to the F.B.I, undermining prosecutors, and betraying the country . . . Attorney General William Barr has turned the Justice Department into nothing more than a political tool for Trump to wield against his enemies and withdraw against his friends. This is how dictatorships are built.”

Trump has been preparing to pardon Flynn because Flynn put loyalty to Trump over duty to the country. Whether it was Trump’s idea or Barr’s we may never know, but the two of them surely discussed the matter and decided that their common goal of perpetuating Trump’s presidency and moving the country toward a right-wing autocracy would be better served if Barr dropped charges against Flynn, sparing Trump the political blow-back from pardoning him.

Democracy at Bay

The recently released 2020 Freedom House’s annual Nations in Transit Report details the continuing decline in democracy around the world. The report states that “a growing number of leaders around the world have dropped even the pretense of playing by the rules of democracy.” 

Returning Trump to his towers and golf courses next January would be a big step forward in reversing this baleful trend.

Wouldn’t It Be Wonderful

Katrina vanden Heuvel quoting the Reverend William Barber: “May we have the necessary righteous indignation in this moment to fight for transformation.”

Wouldn’t be wonderful if this devastating pandemic could be a catalyst for a transformation of our government and society from one driven by greed and resentment to one driven by beneficence and concern for the common good.

Voting By Mail and American Democracy

There’s a good chance of a new wave of Covid-19 infections in the fall. Voting in person at polling stations is likely to be risky, if not outright dangerous, for many, if not most, voters. Voting by mail is the obvious solution. That system has been in place here in Colorado and in several other states for several years, and it works smoothly and efficiently. Voting by mail should be national policy. 

Most Republicans want to prevent voting by mail from being an option. Preventing voting by mail fits in with their general policy of voter suppression –– disenfranchising as many people as possible in an effort to tilt elections in their favor. Trump wants to shut down or cripple the U.S. Postal Service as a precaution to make sure voting by mail doesn’t happen.

There’s a chance that American democracy will survive this nightmare of Trump and Trumpism. It’s too early to tell.

Need for a Paradigm Shift — Part II

The needed paradigm shift in this country requires (i) the decisive defeat of Trump and (ii) Democratic control of both Houses of Congress, thereby enabling the adoption and implementation of honorable, decent, compassionate, sensible, foresighted, competent, enlightened, science-based foreign and domestic policy, the elements of which are too numerous and complex for me to attempt to comment on here, except to say that they would include making freedom of want a reality for everyone within our borders and ensure as well freedom of opportunity, both financed by a far more progressive tax policy that, once in place, could be justly described as a system no longer rigged for the rich and powerful, and especially for the super rich and super powerful, but for all the people, especially the least rich and least powerful.

Need for a Paradigm Shift  ––   Part I

The economy is in precipitous decline. Until a widely available vaccine for Covid-19 is available, we’ll have to have continued waves of infections, restrictions on movement, and impediments to production to avoid a rise in debilitating cases to levels that overwhelm health-care services and a rise in the number of deaths from the virus in the United States from over one-hundred thousand, which it is almost certain to reach by summer, to over a million, which it could well approach within a year in the absence of an effective national policy of managing the crisis. We need a paradigm shift in public policy.

The appalling and destructive Inequality in wealth and income obtaining in this country has been greatly exacerbated by the crisis. Increasing numbers of people slide into insolvency every week. Of the four essential freedoms Franklin Roosevelt said should be the right of every person, two of them, freedom from want and freedom from fear, are slipping out of the grasp of most Americans. 

Though there is no chance of having a responsible national government until next January, it’s not too early to think about where a paradigm shift could take us ––  about how we could turn the tide.

Looking in on the World from the Outside

When, as in my case, you’re 89 and most of the people you’ve ever known, including your parents, all your aunts and uncles, your only sibling, the last two, save one, of your last remaining first cousins, and two of your closest friends have died, the last four within the past month, it can alter your perspective. Empathizing with them, you begin to feel as if you’re with them, as if you are looking in on the world from outside it, as if you were an explorer from an alien planet. It’s quite a heady feeling.

Tara Reade and the Putin Taint

Tara Reade may be telling the truth about Joe Biden’s having sexually assaulted her in 1993, but in this he-said / she-said controversy, her story is contaminated by her past outspoken admiration for Vladimir Putin. Putin is a murderous autocrat and an enemy of democracy, who has worked assiduously to destabilize the Untied States and played a major role in the installation of our sociopathic president. The mental and moral stability of any American who is admirer of Putin is deeply suspect. Reade’s complaint should be a non-factor in the election. We have a country to save.

Pence

You may have read that Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic and spoke with patients, that he was asked to wear a mask, and that he declined to do so, manifestly because he thought doing so would displease Trump. Probably only a handful of Trumpian hangers-on and other nihilists in our country would behave the way Pence did, justifying completely Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin’s characterization of him as a sniveling sycophant. Pence is quite a phenomenon, a man without a heart, a soul, or a brain.

Socialists –– The Big Lie

Right-wing propagandists, who comprise a majority of Republicans, try to fool people into voting for Republicans by claiming that progressives, in fact all Democrats, are dangerous liberals, which is to say, socialists, who want to raise everyone’s taxes and spend a lot of money on bloated bureaucracies whose main function, to the extent they’re not just spinning their wheels, is to impose burdensome regulations on everyone and dole handouts to every freeloader in the country, stifle free enterprise, and turn America into a Godless society like Soviet Russia under Stalin. That’s what you’re supposed to think when you hear the word ‘socialist,’ and “socialist” is what you’re supposed to think when you hear the word “liberal” or the word “Democrat.” It’s a big lie, repeated, embroidered upon, and pumped into the consciousness a huge segment of the population every day.

America the Oligarchy, continued

I haven’t quite finished Robert Reich’s new book, The System –– Who Rigged It and How We Fix It. The evidence for his case is overwhelming: The system is rigged for the rich and powerful, and this cuts across party lines. The man who epitomizes the situation, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, is a Democrat who talks a good liberal game, which hasn’t kept him from being a prime operative in promoting the interests of the rich at the expense of the beleaguered middle class and the oppressed poor. Summing up the problem, Reich quotes Louis Brandeis: “We can have a democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Today, I’ll finish the book and tomorrow say something about the hard problem: how to fix it.

America the Oligarchy

In his new book, The System –– Who Rigged It and How We Fix It, Robert Reich meticulously lays out the facts supporting his assertion that the United States of America has become an oligarchy, or close to it. We’ve retained the trappings of a democracy, but the way things work is that the rich and powerful employ armies of lobbyists and finance politicians who carry out their self-serving greed-driven agendas.

Although neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren were able to become the Democratic presidential candidate, they were essentially right in their accusations that the system is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and the middle class. Biden would make a better president than Trump by an astronomically wide margin, and it will be a tragedy of an extreme dimension if he is not elected president, but it’s not clear whether, as president, he would initiate and succeed in bringing into being the fundamental reforms needed to convert the system into one that serves the people rather than the rich and the powerful.

to be continued tomorrow

The Moral Pandemic

Trump speculates on national TV that ingesting bleach might be an effective way of thwarting the coronavirus. It’s another day of Trump being Trump, and another day that Trump supporters, Trump enablers, Trump apologists, and Trump tolerators should be ashamed of themselves. That they are not –– that there is a substantial risk that this man may still be in power after Inauguration Day, January 2021–– is indicative of a pandemic-like moral infection spread across the land.

Why Write a Blog Every Day

Rather recently, I decided to think more about why I was doing what I was doing. Does writing a blog every day fit in with what I consider to be my purpose in life, which I decided is to have fun and make the world a better place? It’s fun, so I can check that off. And I hope that people who read what I write will find it to be stimulating and informative; if it is, then in a very modest way it should be tending to make the world a better place.

Another reason I’m trying to write a blog every day is to force myself to get my thoughts in order, to think more and not just drift through life. The playwright Eugene Ionesco said, “I write to find out what I think.” I understand what he meant.

Living in an Oligarchy

In his important new book, The System, which I’ve started reading, Robert Reich describes what it’s like to live in an oligarchy. Russia is an example.  The United States has been drifting in that direction for decades. I’ll write more about this when I finish the book.

Income and Wealth Inequality

A lot of people are seeing their savings wiped out by the virus crisis. The numbers of people who are absolutely impoverished is rising. The attitude of Republicans is let them eat cake. Amazon has thrived. I read that the Jeff Bezos net worth has increased by 24 billion dollars this year. We need to provide everybody with a minimum income. The well-off, the rich, the super rich, and super super rich can afford to pay for it. The shocking and disgraceful increase in income and and wealth inequality needs to be reversed, fast. The survival of our country as a decent place in the world is at stake.

Losing It

I’ve visited about a dozen U.S. national parks over the years. If I had to pick one I considered to be the most memorable, it would be Sequoia National Park in California. I was sad to read an article yesterday by a park ranger, who reported that these majestic trees are dying; enchanting forests are withering: “‘Giant sequoias are so good at surviving that you almost never see a dead standing sequoia’, I used to tell visitors,” he wrote. “‘They keep living and growing for thousands of years, until they finally get too top-heavy for their shallow root systems to support. Then they topple over.’ I don’t say that anymore.”

I read that 2020 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record. The Great Barrier Reef incurred terrible bleaching this year. We’re losing the natural world. It will take a revolution of human desires to save much of it.

Perfection Cut Short

Because I don’t expect to travel this summer, I shifted some of my 2020 budget for travel to music, thereby enabling me to acquire Sony MDR -1A headphones, whereupon I went to YouTube and was treated to a terrific rendition of my favorite piece of music, Darius Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit, performed in this instance by Alondra de la Parra and the Orchestre de Paris. I was happily mesmerized, a state the conductor seemed to share with me, until, as the final notes of this spirited performance were still sounding, it was cut off with an ad. Oh, our wonderful but flawed world.

The Power of Resentment

According to polls, 20% of Bernie Sanders supporters say they won’t vote for Biden, and, of these, three-quarters say they will cross over and vote for Trump. It’s clear that these people don’t share Sanders’s ideals and aspirations. Like the people who attend Trump rallies, with their hats and their signs and wearing their stupid grins, they are driven by resentment rather than by ideals.

The Uncertainty Index

If there were an uncertainty index, I think it would be rising to new levels. Yesterday, I read several articles by experts in economics, epidemiology, and vaccines. In each case, I began by thinking, now, at last, I’ll get a grip on what’s in store for us, but no clarity emerged from any quarter, except that the top vaccine expert said it would be two years minimum before an effective vaccine would be generally available. It would be an exceedingly difficult time even if we had a normal president. Having Trump and his enablers in control of the federal government raises the uncertainty index much higher.

The Decadence Index

I’m not sure whether there is, in fact, a decadence index. If there is, one of the useful sources for constructing it would be the current Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Among the merchandise featured are items I think of as tailored for people who haven’t been taxed enough. They serve as indicators of the degree of decadence in America.

The latest catalog, which I received yesterday, contains an item that sets a new high in decadence: a very special type of rubber raft you can prop yourself up on while floating about in your swimming pool. No more tedious paddling across the pool for you once you own it. No such plebeian labor is required when you’re the captain of this Hammacher Schlemmer raft. It’s equipped a tiny electric motor that will propel you across your pool with no effort at all. 

A Feeling of Uncertainty

A feeling of uncertainty hangs in the air. It’s about a lot of things, most acutely at the moment about the course of the virus crisis, the economy, and the political future of the United States.  I remember only two occasions of comparable uncertainty. The first was after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The second was the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

I talked to a cousin of mine on the phone this morning, someone I’ve known since we were toddlers in 1932. We agreed that this is the strangest time we’ve witnessed in the long string of intervening years.

Could Inflation Be Around the Corner?

A non-expert’s guess-view:

Traditionally, a depression is accompanied by deflation, and wars are accompanied by inflation.

What about a depression attendant to a war against a virus?

It seems to me that, because the Trumpian administration will probably continue to do everything wrong without fail, the U.S. will get in such a hole, and so many people will be so desperate for relief, that doling out cash will eventually become overwhelmingly politically necessary. Therefore, I think the case for a surprising (to most) uptick in inflation is a good one.

A Simple Truth

Trump: “When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total.”

Wikipedia: Megalomania: “a delusional mental illness that is marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur.” 

To support the reelection of this man is deeply ignorant or deeply immoral.

Easy Predictions

It’s only April but it already seems easy to pick who will be Time Magazine’s choice for person of the year 2020. It will be the health care workers and attendants who risked their lives to tend for the sick and save the lives of others. Trump, once again it won’t be you, but don’t fret: You’ll remain in the limelight, yet again receiving the award for being the gravest threat to American Democracy, and you’ll be able to feel extra proud of yourself for having beat out two extremely formidable competitors, Mitch McConnell and Attorney General William Barr.

The 180º-wide Blind Spot –– a Case Study

I got an email inviting me to watch a podcast conducted by a prominent liberal intellectual who presumably has a grasp on what’s been going on in this country. The subject matter is the shortcomings of Joe Biden. I’m aware of  the shortcomings of Joe Biden. Devoting a podcast to discussing them is the equivalent of arguing that a lifeboat should not be launched from the Titanic because the varnish is peeling on the brightwork.

What the Charts Say

With about a dozen well-chosen charts in a New York Times op-ed this morning, David Leonhardt and Yaryna Serkez lay bare the sickening growth in income and wealth inequality in the United States over the past decades. The concentration of wealth among the super rich and the very rich is appalling, as has been its effect. Money is power, money rules.

The trend toward the U.S. becoming a feudal society may be reversed in the coming decade; there’s enough of a chance of that happening to give cause for hope and motive for activism.

Does the Federal Government Have Plans to Deal with the Coronavirus Crisis Going Forward?

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin supplies the answer to this important question:

“No, there are no plans. The states are on their own and, worse, must contend with a vengeful, ignorant and impulsive president.”

American Democracy in the ICU

If American democracy –– our Constitutional system of government –– were a person, it would be like one with a severe case of Covid-19. It would be in the ICU, the intensive care unit of a hospital.

Washington Post columnist  E. J. Dionne writes: “We know that this fall’s election is in deep jeopardy. We have been warned that Trump, the GOP, and the party bosses in robes on the U.S. Supreme Court are perfectly willing to obstruct the right to vote of those most likely to vote Democratic.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman notes: “What if Trump loses? . . .He’ll claim that Joe Biden’s victory was based on voter fraud.”

Republicans have shown that they care not a whit about our core values, the Constitution, and the rule of law. There’s every indication that they would prefer a self-perpetuating, authoritarian, right-wing government than a Democratic victory at the polls, and they’ll do whatever they can get away with to bring about that result. Our nation is in peril as never before.

Universal Vote-By-Mail Is a Necessity

Opinion Headline: “Democrats should make voting reform a nonnegotiable baseline for the next stimulus bill: Vote-by-mail is the only way to ensure free and fair elections in November.”

Agreed. Republicans fear–– and Trump has voiced this fear expressly –– that their Party will lose power unless voting by great numbers of eligible voters is suppressed. The right-wing majority justices of the Supreme Court have made clear that they are onboard with this strategy. The only way to ensure that the general election this November can be free and open is to require universal mail-in voting. There aren’t two honorable sides to the question. Democrats should not relent on it.

The Authoritarian-Minded Court

Monday, April 6th, the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling upholding the Wisconsin governor’s order extending the deadline for returning mail-in ballots, which voters had not received in time because of delays relating to the coronavirus crisis. The Court’s rationale was that the extension would have violated the integrity of the electoral process. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement” of voters, the opposite of preserving  the integrity of the electoral process.

     Step by step, the Court has been moving toward validating right-wing authoritarian rule.

The Tragedy of Trump Supporters

Trump’s ineptitude, incompetence, meanness, and muddle-headedness have been on full display during the course of the coronavirus crisis. I don’t know if a constructive thought ever wells up in his mind. If it does, it’s instantly snuffed out by pathological narcissism of such intensity that it overrides all other processes in his brain. Shame on those who, though they are aware of what kind of man he is, would perpetuate his remaining in office.

What 2020 Will Be Remembered For

Headline: “Trump, GOP challenge efforts to make voting easier amid coronavirus pandemic.”

American democracy, our Constitutional system, and equal rights and justice under the law are not values and institutions that most Republicans and their leaders care about. Their overriding interest is in acquiring and holding on to power whatever the cost. The Republican Party is composed of disparate factions held together by the common purpose of transforming our country into a vehicle for realizing their worldly goals and emotional aspirations. The principle factions are greedy plutocrats and those drawn along in their wake, religious nationalists, people driven by mindless resentment, and the deluded disaffected. 2020 will long be remembered as the year of the coronavirus and the year when American democracy died or survived.

One of the Greatest

One summer when I nearing the end of my teenage years, I played poker occasionally with my friends, Robert, Kenneth, and Peter, who were brothers. They had an impressive house overlooking Huntington Bay on Long Island. Their father had made a lot of money. At one of these sessions, as one of them, after successful bluffing, raked in the chips, he said, “As dad says, ‘Play ‘em as if you got ‘em’.”                                                             

That’s Trump’s way of operating, in spades. He’s one of the greatest bluffers of all time. It’s his only talent, but it’s taken him a long way.

Trump, a One-Man Scourge

Blaming everyone but himself and his sycophantic followers for his failure every step of the way to take basic steps to institute a federal response to the coronavirus crisis, Trump has proven himself, once again, to be not only corrupt and dishonest, which he incontrovertibly demonstrated before the coronavirus crisis arose, but ignorant and incompetent to a degree that will likely cost tens of thousands of lives.

Another Red Light Flashing: Danger, Danger.

In a Facebook post yesterday, former Senator Al Franken mocked Mike Pence’s six-minute, rambling, stupid, non-responsive spiel after Trump decided to evade a tough question by turning the mic over to the him.  After Pence’s pathetic performance, Trump directed a zinger at him. Franken predicts that Trump will dump Pence and pick Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to be his running mate.

Would Trump dump his most slavishly loyal supporter over the past three and a half years? You bet. Trump no longer thinks he needs Pence to become president so he can be sure of getting pardoned for his crimes, and Haley is unquestionably a more formidable running mate than the hollow-brained V-P.

If Franken is right –– and I think he is — that’s bad news for Democrats, bad news for America, and bad news for humanity.

If Haley is Trump’s running mate, it will be all the harder to get Trump out of office. All the harder but no less necessary.

The Office of the President of the United States and Trump

It’s been a tradition in our country to respect the Office of the President of the United States. However much you disagree with the president’s policies, he is our duly elected president. The president must be accorded a high degree of respect simply because he is the president. So it goes, beclouding Trump’s ignorance, mendacity, and narcissistic character that will continue to contaminate and weaken our country every day he remains in office. 

The Smearing of Joe Biden

Between now and the election in November, expect an ever increasing flood of attacks, smears, accusations, allegations, canards, and all manner of disinformation and phony revelations concerning Joe Biden. Recently, there has been a flood of accusations that on multiple occasions he inappropriately touched women. It’s highly likely that they are all either false or highly exaggerated. Even if they were not, Biden would remain a better candidate than Trump by an astronomically large margin. 

Pro Sanders Extremists.

Report: “15 percent of Sanders supporters say in polling that they would vote for President Trump over Biden.”  These people may be left-wing nuts rather than right-wing nuts, but they are of the same ilk as the people you’ve seen in clips of Trump rallies, possessed by a mix of stupidity, nihilism, and resentment that blots out rational brain processes. In their enthusiasm for Sanders run amok they may tip the scales  and perpetuate the plague of Trump.

Sanders may be remembered more as a moral failure than as a champion of progressivism if he fails to stop encouraging his nihilistic supporters.

The Flawed Demagogue

Trump has been rightly praised as a gifted demagogue. He has exhibited astonishing brilliance in this art, but he has a remarkable flaw that may result in his undoing. He is incapable of faking being a decent person. His psyche is so parched that he can’t generate crocodile tears, much less those characteristic of the vast majority of humans. What New York Times columnist Roger Cohen refers to as Trump’s “eerie inhumanity” is so manifest that one must suppose that those who support his reelection are morally compromised as well. If this flaw isn’t sufficient to bring about Trump’s downfall in November, it will signal that our country is deeply flawed itself.

We’re # 1

Headline: “The destruction of India’s judicial independence is almost complete.” If, as it appears to be, that’s the case, India can no longer be considered to be the world’s largest democracy. That means we’re #1! Yippee! Except if Trump is still in the White House after inauguration day next January, Indonesia will become #1, if it qualifies, or if not, maybe Mexico, if it qualifies. Safest bet for #1 would probably be Japan, whose democracy was born in the U.S.A.

Bernie Sanders’s Duty

Bernie Sanders isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee for president. Yet he insists on remaining in the race and arguing and allowing  his supporters to argue that he would be a superior choice than Biden.  This involves sharp criticism of Biden.

This is reprehensible, because it increases the chance that Trump will be reelected. Sanders is violating his primary duty, which is just the opposite. Basically decent people who commit wrongs often allow themselves to do so by rationalizing their behavior. I’m sure that Sanders is thinking that by staying in the race he will increase the chances that his policies, which are more progressive than Biden’s, will gain greater political traction. In particular, Sanders hopes that he will be able to persuade more people to support “Medicare-for-All.”

I think that would be a good thing, but it’s of trivial importance compared to the stark necessity of getting rid of Trump. It’s a tragic failing of Sanders that he doesn’t see that.

The Power of Trump’s Tweets

Trump has a huge following of faithful readers of his tweets. You don’t need to read the tweets themselves to know what they say: They are regurgitated in summary form in letters to the editor that appear in your local paper. One this morning I read was collection of falsehoods and non-sequiturs worthy of Trump himself. The author’s conclusion: “This virus does validate all of President Donald Trump’s major agenda items.”

 

Contrasts in Leadership

One of the surprising developments during the coronavirus crisis has been the emergence of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as a conspicuously energetic, competent, and rational leader. The contrast between his press briefings and those of Trump expose in a glaring light how profoundly unfit Trump is to hold office. 

Busy day and missed blog. Back tomorrow.

How Base and Corrupt the Republican Party Has Become

Robert Reich reports that “the Senate GOP bill creates a $500,000,000,000 slush fund for corporations that only Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has control over; doesn’t require reporting of recipients for six months; provides no guarantee that Trump’s own businesses won’t benefit; has no worker protections and only one weak restriction on executive bonuses.”

Needed: Breaths of Fresh Air

As what seems like an apocalypse plunked down from nowhere on the course of history, how welcome breaths of fresh air would be. Some may come! One that should would be a well-articulated expression of utter disgust with Trump and his enablers and kindred scoundrels by Bernie Sander coupled with his dropping out of the presidential race and urging his supporters to get unreservedly behind Joe Biden. 

Leadership Contrasts

I’ve never been a particular admirer of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, but I was impressed with the Corvid-19 briefing he delivered, shown on television yesterday. He was calm, methodical, thorough, transparent, and authentic. His presentation was a model of competent leadership. That confirmed cases in New York State greatly outnumber those in any other state. may be because New York leads every other state in testing. I was left with the impression that Cuomo is doing everything that can be done, and he’s doing it right.

What a contrast with the unreality shows Trump has been putting on recently with his sycophant-in-chief, Mike Pence, standing, as always, dutifully beside him. Watching Trump perform, one wonders why anyone would vote for him even if their sole source of information about him came from watching him talk.

A Tale of Two Charts

Vox’s chart this morning showing the progression in newly diagnosed Covid-19 cases in Italy and the U.S. is instructive. Italy appears to be about two weeks ahead of the U.S. Following the Italian experience, the exponentially rising curve of U.S. cases yields a frighteningly high number two weeks from now. There’s no reason to believe that the U.S. containment efforts are more efficient than those in Italy. The worst is yet to come and it’s coming faster than it has been.

Call for a Progressive Agenda

I hope that Bernie Sanders will delay no longer in dropping out of the presidential race and that he will throw his full support to Joe Biden. This is the only responsible thing for him to do, because defeating Trump in November eclipses all other considerations. I also hope that if Biden becomes president, he will press for a more progressive agenda than the Democratic Party and recent Democratic presidents (Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton) have espoused. 

I can’t enlarge on that here; suffice to quote a recent comment of Rober Reich: “The biggest U.S. airlines spent 96 percent of free cash flow over the last decade to buy back shares of their own stock in order to boost executive bonuses and please wealthy investors. American Airlines alone repurchased more than $12.5 billion of its shares over the last ten years. Now, they expect taxpayers to bail them out to the tune of $54 billion.

The system has been tilted to benefit big corporations and rich people. I believe the system should be tilted in the opposite direction.

Supervening Circumstances and the Like

I was unable to post a blog yesterday and earlier this morning because of technical difficulties with my website provider’s software, and because of supervening circumstances this blog will not resume until tomorrow.

America’s Luck Runs Out

The playing out of history in the Trumpian age seemed surreal even before the Covid-19 pandemic spread through the world. Within the course of a month, we’ve entered a period of unimaginable chaos. In past mortal crises, America has been lucky  enough to have inspired leadership. I’m thinking of the American Revolution and the years that followed in which the founding fathers brought forth the Constitution, how it was Lincoln who was president during the Civil War,  Franklin Roosevelt at the depth of the Great Depression and the onset of World War II, and John F, Kennedy  during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

On this grave occasion the leader in power is an ignorant malignant narcissist abetted by an assemblage knaves and fools.

Bernie and Biden –– The Debate

The other day I wrote: “Bernie has an obligation to refrain from saying anything that would hurt Biden in the general election. He has a patriotic and moral duty to try to raise Biden’s stature. Subject to this stricture, he has plenty of room to legitimately argue that Democrats should pursue more progressive policies and to try to inspire the Democrats to move in that direction.”

Bernie didn’t rise to the occasion. He lost sight of his duty, which was to make it more likely that Trump would be defeated as a result of the debate. Instead, he acted as if his goal was to defeat Biden in the debate. He hectored and badgered Biden, and yet again failed to lay out how, as a practical matter, his laudable dream of Medicare for All could be set in place. Lacking grace, finesse, or humor, he gave no indication that he could be effective leader as president. 

Biden is an uninspiring choice as a candidate, but he’s enormously experienced, decent, stolid, and has a better chance of beating Trump than Bernie, which is the only thing that counts. I hope he wins decisively in tomorrow’s primaries in four important states.

COVID-19 –– the Prospects

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Dr. David Ho last evening was illuminating. Dr. Ho was instrumental in developing anti-viral drugs that subdued the AIDs virus. He and his team are working on developing a similarly effective drug to subdue COVID-19. Dr. Ho was optimistic that this can be accomplished, but it will probably take at least a year before any such drug can be widely available, and availability of an effective vaccine appears to be at least a year-and-a-half away. In the meantime, drastic measures must be taken to slow the rate of new infections. The experience of China and South Korea demonstrate that aggressive interventions can succeed. At best, tough times lie ahead.

The Pandemic and Interventions

There’s a lot to be said for checking online editions of the New York Times and the Washington Pose. For example, in today’s Times, William Kristoff and colleagues display an interactive graph based on professional research. It’s critically important to put the brakes on the natural exponential rise in cases of people infected with the coronavirus infection. This can be accomplished by aggressive interventions described in the article. You can be the virtual policy decider by moving a vertical bar on the graph that represents the date you initiate aggressive interventions. It’s an enlightening exercise. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.

Biden and Bernie –– The Debate

Even though Bernie’s chances of being the nominee are between slim and zero, he has chosen to stay in the race, and will debate Biden Sunday as planned. Bernie has an obligation to refrain from saying anything that would hurt Biden in the general election. He has a patriotic and moral duty to try to raise Biden’s stature. Subject to this stricture, he has plenty of room to legitimately argue that Democrats should pursue more progressive policies and to try to inspire the Democrats to move in that direction. 

A principal goal of Biden’s should be to inspire confidence in his candidacy among Bernie supporters. He can do that by acknowledging the great service Bernie has done by shining a bright light on big money corruption of politicians and on the shocking and destructive rise of income inequality in this country. Biden should outdo Bernie in this respect by citing statistics and instances with specificity that has been lacking in Bernie’s arguments. 

Biden can rightly assert that he and Bernie largely share the same goals, but he can and should point out that Bernie’s dreams would not be translated into reality: they are not achievable politically, and they are full of holes economically. Biden should explain how and why he can advance progressive agendas more efrectively than Bernie could, and how he intends to do so. Biden’s performance should be notable for equanimity, steadfastness, patience, meticulousness, affirmation of common purpose, and absence of rancor. Let’s hope Bernie’s is as well. 

Biden and Bernie

Biden won decisively in yesterday’s primary contests. Barring a medical catastrophe, he’s almost certain to be the Democratic nominee. The reason he did so well is that most voters believe that he is more likely than Bernie to defeat Trump and understand that this eclipses all other considerations. It’s now important for all people of good will to get behind Biden and work to defeat Trump, keep control of the House, and, if at all possible, flip the senate to Democratic control, so that the task of rehabilitating our country from the damage inflicted on it by Trump and Trumpism can begin. 

A danger is that many of Bernie’s boosters will be embittered and sit on their hands rather than support and vote for Biden. 

These are people –– and there are many of them –– who don’t understand that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. Many of them are too young to remember how Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, claimed that there was no difference between G.W. Bush and Al Gore and peeled off a critical percentage of progressive voters. If Nader had supported Gore, Gore would have been elected president and we would have been spared the disastrous presidency of G, W, Bush. Trump is a far greater danger to American democracy and to the entire world than was G. W. Bush. I fervently hope that Bernie boosters will understand what’s at stake and will support Biden.

Biden has work to do too, which I’ll discuss tomorrow.

The Coronavirus

The virus is highly contagious. Cases in the U.S. seem to be doubling every week. If the present trend continues, something like eight million people may be infected by the end of June. Most people have mild cases and need little if any medical help, but if the number of people who are infected continues to grow at the present rate, the relatively small percentage of people who will need intensive medical care will be so numerous that hospitals and clinics will be overwhelmed, and the fatality rate will rise substantially higher than it would reach if the spread of infections had been slowed.

In trying to minimize risks and contravene facts instead of educating the public and taking steps to reduce the rate of spreading of the disease, the Trump administration is, in yet another way, inflicting tremendous damage on our country.

Health Care Policy and the Presidential Race

On Facebook you can see a little video by Robert Reich in which he convincingly demonstrates that Medicare for All would provide more comprehensive coverage and cost a lot less than the present system. This would be achieved because private insurance companies would be cut out except for supplementary insurance, which some companies currently offer to those eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. 

These insurance companies are largely parasitical. Why tolerate them? The only reason they exist is that they finance legislators. To get rid of them, we would have to have a critical mass of politicians agree to spurn their largesse. It’s unrealistic to think that such a thing would happen just because a proponent of Medicare for All, like Bernie Sanders, became president. Politicians inclined to keep the present system –– a large majority –– point to the huge number of insurance employees who would be thrown out of work, and the hardship such a seismic shift would impose on investors, whose shares of stock in health care insurance companies would plummet if they suddenly lost most of their business. Offsets could be devised to deal with these problems, but  as a matter of practical reality, transitioning to Medicare for All can’t be accomplished overnight. If it’s ever is to come about, it has to be through incremental steps, for example, bit by bit lowering the age at which people are eligible for Medicare. The transition should be financed not only by reducing funds spent on insurance companies, but by a far more progressive tax structure, more than reversing the 2017 monstrous tax cut for the rich and especially for the super rich. The next president should set these changes in motion.

Bernie Sanders would be much more aggressive in effecting the transition than Joe Biden. But, despite the protestations of his supporters, Bernie appears to be much less likely to beat Trump than Biden. Better to have a bird almost in hand than have sight of two on the other side of the hedgerow. 

Letter to the Editor of My Local Newspaper

March 7, 2020

Cory’s Choice

I once assumed that Senator Cory Gardner was a traditional Republican like my father, a staunch defender of the Constitution and the rule of law, an advocate of fiscal responsibility, a person who had no tolerance for dictators and autocrats, favored strong alliances with our democratic allies, and despised dishonesty and corruption, most of all among those in positions of power.

Whether or not I’m right in assuming that Cory Gardner was once a traditional Republican, he chose to abandon these core Republican principles by going along with the corrupt and self-aggrandizing policies of President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and their allies.

House Impeachment managers presented overwhelming evidence of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors, particularly of his shakedown of Ukraine’s President Zelensky by conditioning release of military aid authorized by Congress on Zelensky’s participation in Trump’s project to smear Joe Biden, Trump’s most feared political opponent. At the outset of the senate trial, Majority Leader McConnell called on Republican senators to be loyal to Trump by refusing to consider evidence on the record, refusing to subpoena witnesses and documents, and by summarily acquitting Trump without permitting an impartial trial.

Cory Gardner chose to be faithful and loyal to Trump and McConnell and their corrupt and authoritarian agenda rather than to his duty under the Constitution to protect and preserve our democratic institutions. Our choice should be to vote him out of office in November.

Democracy’s Last Stand

In one of her Washington Post columns yesterday, Jennifer Rubin quoted from Freedom House’s newly released annual report on the state of democracy and human rights around the world: “Democracy and pluralism are under assault. Dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent and spread their harmful influence to new corners of the world. . . The chief executives of the United States and India, the world’s two largest democracies, are increasingly willing to break down institutional safeguards and disregard the rights of critics and minorities as they pursue their populist agendas.” 

Republicans overwhelmingly back the authoritarian ambitions of Trump and allies. American Democracy makes its last stand at the polls this November; it’s our last chance to keep this country from being the greatest and most powerful banana republic in history. 

The Trumpian Smear Machine Gears Up

If Biden is the Democratic nominee, the Republican propaganda machine will launch a smear and disinformation campaign against him like nothing ever seen before. You will be told that when Biden was vice-president of the United States, he and his son Hunter colluded with Ukraine’s corrupt officials to arrange for Hunter to get rich in exchange for Biden using his influence on their behalf; also that Biden has been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, but that the Dems have covered it up. Also, and so on, you’ll hear, drummed into your head until you realize that Biden is one of the most traitorous and irresponsible and mentally unfit people who has ever run for office. 

When you think of the relentless false attacks that will be launched against Biden, it almost makes you hope that Bernie Sanders will be the nominee instead of Biden. But wait, the Republican propaganda machine would launch an equally vicious array of false stories and claims about Sanders. If Sanders is the nominee, Biden’s alleged traitorous behavior will suddenly become inconsequential compared to Sanders’s secret plan to turn our country into a communist state run the way Stalin ran the Soviet Union. You’ll be told that Sanders and his wife made millions through a real estate schemes that bankrupted a college in Vermont. That’s not the half of it. What Sanders would do if elected president would make your blood curdle, you’ll be told.

No matter who the Democratic nominee is, the Trumpian Smear Machine will be ready to unleash its venom.

What Counts

It emerged from Super Tuesday results that, on average, older people prefer Biden, and younger people prefer Sanders. Many younger people preferring Sanders don’t realize that many older people who prefer Biden are just as progressive as they are, but they prefer Biden because they think he is significantly more likely to beat Trump than Sanders.

This year, that’s all that counts.

Super Tuesday Aftermath

We now have a two-person race for the Democratic nomination. A refreshing development: Bloomberg was not able to buy the election. Many voters may have felt the way I did, which was irritation at the giant-sized postcards extolling the super-billionaire that kept arriving in the mail. The test of Bloomberg’s character is whether from now on he’ll concentrate more on defeating Trump and less on promoting himself. 

Warren did poorly at the polls, but she still has a solid segment of supporters. She’s remaining in the race for good reason. There’s a chance that voting at the convention will be deadlocked between Sanders and Biden. Warren may choose to drop out and back one of them at a critical moment. Less probably, but not to be ruled out, the leading candidates might agree to make her the nominee. She would be more appealing than Sanders to most Biden supporters, and more appealing than Biden to most Sanders supporters.

Super Tuesday

Here we are. I already voted by mail for Warren, but if I were voting today, I would vote for Biden. I think Warren is hoping that there will be a contested convention, and that she will be the compromise nominee. That’s a possibility, and it would be fine as far as I’m concerned, and it might mollify Bernie enthusiasts, who would be satisfied with Warren, but would sit out the election rather than vote for Biden. But if Warren drags away enough voters from Biden to let Bernie win, and those of us who think that Biden is much more likely to beat Trump than Bernie are right, that would be a tragedy, and my early voting for Warren would have contributed to it. 

A Call for Unity

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman correctly notes that the Republican Party has degenerated into a Trump personality cult. Nothing constructive can be expected of it. Moderate and progressive Democrats must work to defeat Trump and build governing coalition. Our country’s survival depends on it.

It took a weird concatenation of circumstances in 2016 for Trump to get elected. It will take a concatenation of circumstances in 2020 for him to be reelected, but not as weird a one.

Biden for President

I’ve wavered in my tentative choice for the Democratic nominee between Klobuchar and Warren, but, now that the South Carolina primary results are in, it appears that Joe Biden will be the only serious contender against Bernie Sanders. And since I agree with most informed observers that Biden is significantly more likely to defeat Trump than Sanders, no other issue is worth considering. Beating Trump is all that counts. As Jennifer Rubin noted, “This is not a time for revolution  –- it’s a time for fumigation.”

 If Biden wins, he’ll need a much younger impressive running mate who will help in getting out the biggest vote possible. I’ll start thinking about who that should be after the Super Tuesday results are in, about sixty hours from now, unless it turns out to be useless, because Sanders romped.

The Coronavirus

From the CDC (Centers from Disease Control): “The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.” 

    The coronavirus that lately has been spreading throughout the world may be somewhat less lethal, but it’s disruptive effect may be even greater. The world’s population is now five times what it was a century ago. I learned last night that the great 1918 pandemic subsided over the summer. For many, it appeared to be going away, just at Trump assured Americans that this one would go away, but there was was a resurgence of it in the fall, and it proceeded to take its terrible toll. If this pandemic takes a similar course, it could bring about a global economic depression. We are in the position of  prairie dwellers who see a tornado bearing down on their house. It may miss it and it may not.

This Horror of a Human Being

Trump no longer tries to cover up his transgressions. He has settled into unrestrained authoritarian leader mode. He admires Putin. His greatest wish is to become America’s Putin. The most shocking thing about our times is that the temper of  America is such that this horror of a human being may be reelected. 

Robert Reich notes: “It’s not enough for Trump to attack Congressional leaders, the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence community, the entire military justice system, diplomats, government officials, Congressional leaders, immigrants, foreigners, prosecutors, the judge who presided over Roger Stone’s trial, and even the foreman of Roger Stone’s jury.”

Warren’s Strategy

Some were surprised that, in the debate Tuesday evening, Warren directed her fire-power at Mike Bloomberg, rather than at her principal progressive rival, front-runner Bernie Sanders. I think she knows that she can’t best Bernie in gathering progressive-minded voters, but that among all Democratic voters, it’s likely that more would prefer her than Bernie. In a brokered convention in which the consensus is that it would be too risky to make Bernie the nominee –– that someone else would be a better bet –– it would be understood that that someone else must not be someone whom Bernie supporters can’t stomach. That would be the case with Bloomberg, for sure. More than that, if Bernie is not to get the nomination even though he is the front-runner, to satisfy his supporters, the nominee must be someone who’s policy proposals are largely congenial with his. That person is Warren. That’s my theory as to why Warren attacked Bloomberg rather than Bernie.

The Meaning of Never Trump

A columnist’s headline in yesterday’s Washington Post has it right:

“I’m no fan of Bernie Sanders. But #NeverTrump means never Trump.”  

Bernie Sanders would be a better president than Trump by an astronomically wide margin, but if he were not even infinitesimally better, he would be better than Trump, because he would be a duly elected president, replacing one with whom voters were dissatisfied, Trump’s attempt to become an unrestrained authoritarian ruler would be thwarted, and all the dishonorable people, including all but one Republican senator and most of Trump’s cabinet members, would have been delivered a stinging rebuke.

Shifting Sands

Amy Klobuchar has been my tentative choice for the Democratic nominee for president but is no longer because, as Jennifer Rubin persuasively pointed out in one of her recent Washington Post columns, there is no longer any chance that Klobuchar can win the most delegates. Her remaining in the race increases the chances that Bernie will win, and I’m among those who believe that Bernie would  probably lose the election to Trump. I like Amy, but too many voters prefer someone else. And at this point Amy should too.

I wrote the above paragraph last night. Reading it over this morning, I’m not so sure I’m right that Bernie is as likely to lose as the punditocracy thinks. The future looks more murky than ever. Tonight’s debate will probably be the most contentious yet.

 

Will Bernie Be the One?

If the Democrats run Bernie against Trump, would it almost ensure Trump’s reelection? A lot of people think so, though some very smart progressives, notably Robert Reich and Michael Moore, think that Bernie is the Dems’s best bet. Bernie, who is old and recently had a heart attack and won’t release all his medical records, enjoys particularly high support among young people. The outlook keeps reaching new levels of scariness.

 

Blog Suspension for the weekend

For some days I’ve been laid low by a respiratory viral infection –– not the seasonal flu, my doctor tells me, but maybe just as bad. In any case, it has had the effect of much reducing my energy level, causing me to miss posting a blog yesterday and deciding to skip posting one for tomorrow.

For today, my main thought is that it would be an understatement to say that we’re in the midst of a Constitutional crisis. We’re experiencing a wrenching loosening of Democratic governance, a worse crisis than the Civil War, in a way, because even if the Union has lost the war and the Confederate states had seceded, the Union, though shrunken, would have survived, and, with it, American democracy, which, at present, is at risk of vanishing from the face of the Earth.

 

Last Night’s Debate

I only watched the first half of last night’s Democratic candidates debate because I have what my doctor says is a respiratory viral infection, which sounds more impressive than a cold and feels like it, but based on what I saw and after reading columnists’s analyses this morning, I concluded, along with a lot of other people, that Bloomberg will not be the knight in shining armor who gallops in to save America from Trump. I was disappointed in Klobuchar, my tentative favorite. Maybe she was tired. You’d think they’d all be tired. I’m now trending toward favoring Warren for the nomination. She sharp, and she has passion. So has Bernie, but Bernie has more limitations, too many to talk about here, and in any event I think his stonewalling on fully releasing health records is disqualifying.

The Fate of the Nation

You can get some idea of how passengers on the Titanic must have felt when the impossible had happened –– the ship had hit an iceberg, and it was going to sink. The United States, which Lincoln called “the last best hope on earth,” has hit an iceberg. It’s not yet certain that our ship of state will sink, but it’s listing dangerously, and water is pouring in. 

The iceberg is a conglomerate of a president engaged in a relentless effort to supplant our Constitutional system with his personal authoritarian rule, Republican senators to whom our country means so little that they have chosen to give such a man free rein regardless of the gravity and multiplicity of his offenses, and an attorney general willing to deploy the Justice Department as an instrument of autocratic rule.

For Whom Should We Be For?

When I was an undergraduate at Princeton University, it had a slogan, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.”  I remember wondering whether that was the way a university should look at itself, failing to consider what the nation might be in service to?  Yesterday, I got a form email from the dean of Princeton”s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs that bore the slogan “In Service to the Nation and Humanity.”  I think this is a big improvement.

Exactly What’s Happening

In his book Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012), the historian and journalist Tony Judt noted, “Democracy is not likely to fall to the charms of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, or oligarchy; it’s much more likely to fall to a corrupted version of itself.”

 

American Tragedy

Trump has tweeted that he is “the King.” He feels that way, because Republicans have decided he can do anything he wants and get away with it. According to a recent Gallup poll, 94% of Republicans approve of Trump. Trump’s ally, the attorney general, has shown himself willing to persecute those whom Trump perceives as enemies and intervene on behalf of loyal members of his criminal family who have been incarcerated, or risk incarceration, as a result of the proper workings of the justice system. 

 

 

Ongoing Horror at the Highest Levels

I wish everyone in this country could read, or have explained to them, Michelle Goldberg’s terrific op-ed in last night’s online New York Times. It concerns, among other things, the perfidious machinations of Attorney General William Barr in being the prime instrument in Trump’s campaign to prosecute, or at least persecute, everyone who has gotten in his way by defending the rule of law and to intervene in judicial proceedings to protect his political allies who have been convicted for criminal offenses. “There is now one set of laws in this country for people who serve Trump, and another for everyone else,” writes Goldberg. What a tragedy has befallen our nation. All people of good will should make every effort to try to rescue it. 

Traveling + a Cold

Traveling + a cold. This blog will resume Feb. 15.

Where are we headed?

News Item: Trump ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “mumbling” during his speech to Congress, then visibly approved as the crowd chanted: “Lock her up!”

Is this mentality to determine the destiny of our country?

Sanders 

Let’s hops that Democratic candidates heed Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin’s warning to mount a united front against Sanders, a leader in the race who, nevertheless, is clearly the candidate most likely to lose to the election to Trump, and thereby to cause the loss of American democracy. Bernie, 78, had a heart attack last fall. It’s disturbing that, although he promised to do so by now, he hasn’t released his medical records, and he brushed off inquiries as to why. I admire Bernie’s views about a lot of things. He would be a better president than Trump by an astronomically wide margin, but the most significant thing about him right now is that he’s a threat to the nation.

Another Gloomy Political Note

The review by the esteemed political analyst Norman Ornstein of Ezra Klein’s new book, Why Are We Polarized, supplies little cause for encouragement about America’s future. Among other problems –– like systematic voter disenfranchisement, unrestrained deep pocket financing of donor-compliant candidates, and Supreme Court-authorized blatantly partisan gerrymandering ––  population trends are such that electoral college results, which determine who is elected president, are becoming increasingly unrepresentative of the popular vote. By 2040, we may see a president elected despite losing the popular vote by a margin of five or six million, and because every state has two senators though their populations may differ by a factor of fifty or more, 30 million people may be empowered to elect 70 of the 100 senators. The U.S. appears to be slipping in the direction of authoritarian rule.

Best Bet to Beat Trump

Better than grumpy impractical old man Sanders and inexperienced whiz kid Buttigieg, better than fading Biden and Warren, is Amy Klobuchar, heartland stalwart with an impressive record in the senate and winning in red districts. Mature but not old, smart, capable, experienced, knowledgeable, and little less important, witty.

Klobuchar

After last night’s debate, Klobuchar remains the candidate who I think would be most successful in winning over the most voters among those who voted for Trump in 2016. To win against Trump, she would also need to perform conspicuously well in bringing out voters among members of minority groups. She can do that by picking the right running mate and crafting and implementing the right strategy. It’s a good bet she can, though still a long shot that she will be the nominee.

Shredding Trump’s State of the Union Speech 

Standing alongside Trump after he delivered his State of the Union speech, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tore her copy of the speech apart. Some say this was “childish.” Some say it was the behavior of “a sore loser.” Some say that it was counter-productive: that it only emphasized that the Democrats pursued a hopeless strategy, that Trump and his supporters outplayed them; that it only increased the chances that Trump will be reelected in November.      

Asked why she did it, Pelosi replied that the alternative would have been worse. What would the alternative have been? To stare stonily ahead? That would have elicited the same criticism without producing any positive effect. To smile politely and pretend that this was a normal president delivering a normal State of the Union speech, rather than the self-serving monologue of a dangerous megalomaniac, whose criminal behavior was stamped “We don’t care what he did” by all but one Republican senator? That’s what one might expect of a soulless, cynical, Trump hanger-on.

Trump’s speech will endure as a model of bad faith, mendaciousness, hatred, and cynical opportunism. It should have been torn up as soon as it was written. Tearing it up afterward was the next best thing.

After Trump was elected in 2016, the journalist Christiane Amanpour counseled, “Fight against the normalization of he unacceptable.” Trump is unacceptable. Trump’s speech was unacceptable. Tearing it up was the right thing to do, not only morally, but politically. People of good will must get it across to voters that Trump is unacceptable, that treating him otherwise is to foolishly indulge him, and that reelecting him would be to normalize the unacceptable as America’s way of being a nation. Pelosi’s speech-shredding helped make that point.

The Discovery of an Honest Republican Senator

Remember the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, who walked about Athens with a lantern, which he held in front of the faces of citizens he encountered? Diogenes said he was looking for an honest man. 

His lantern might have run out of oil if he had been looking among the Republican senators who would not allow witnesses to be called or relevant documents to be introduced in evidence, then kept out of sight or pretended for one clearly phony reason or another clearly phony reason that Trump should be acquitted. 

But if Diogenes had had enough oil in his lamp to keep it shining long enough, he would have eventually shone it on Mitt Romney, perhaps while the Utah Republican was making an excellent short speech explaining why he would vote to convict Trump of abuse of power and remove him from office. It was a dark day for American democracy, but a ray of light shone through, reflected from the face of the single honest Republican senator.

The Democratic Candidates Race

After Iowa, the race is all the more a horse race with no favorite. Biden faltered, but he will probably do better in states with a much larger percentage of African American voters, but many of these states are southern red states, which the Democratic candidate has little or no hope of winning. 

Biden must feel terribly disappointed, because he is by far the most experienced candidate, but he should realize that he is old, and voters have reason to worry about his mental acuity. Buttigieg has done astonishingly well, but, besides being alarmingly young and inexperienced, he strikes me as tending toward the robotic. Sanders may have peaked. I hope so. He is too old, too grouchy, and insufficiently smooth and pragmatic. There’s good reason to doubt his electability. 

Warren and Klobuchar are still in the running. And who’s that horse moving up on the outside? It’s Michael Bloomberg!

The Authoritarian Party

As Jennifer Rubin wrote a few days ago, “The public should understand fully that the Republican Party has become the authoritarian party.” Let us not shrug and pass this off as the new normal. It’s a crisis of the highest order. Since the Republican Party is the authoritarian party and the Republican Party controls our government, America is now an authoritarian country. The question before us is not “Can our democracy be saved? It’s “Can our Democracy be restored?” 

Back on Track

I couldn’t post blogs the past few days because of technical difficulties. Thanks to the arrival of Monday morning, I’ve been able to get things fixed. Starting tomorrow I’ll resume normal comment. 

American Democracy –– R.I.P.

With the refusal of Republican senators, and possibly several Democratic senators more fearful of losing their red- or swing-state seats than of the destruction of American democracy, it seems certain that the senate will summarily acquit Trump with no pretense of conducting a fair trial. Moreover, it appears that Trump-controlled censors will prevent the publication of Bolton’s book, scheduled for March 17, which we know from leaked portions demolishes any last vestige of deniability by Trump of his most egregious crime. 

It was almost a miracle that the U.S. Constitution came into existence. There’s a famous story about how, after the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Ben Franklin, “What have you brought into being?”, to which Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  Indications are that we can’t.

 

Life in Surreal Land

According to Donald Trump’s lawyers, he can do practically anything he wants as long as it’s in the public interest. As president, he’s the one to decide what’s in the public interest. Since he has decided that his re-election is in the public interest, he can do almost anything he wants  aimed to achieve that result.

Sanders

Bernie Sanders appears to be the Democratic candidate who would be most vulnerable to Trumpian attacks that would result in defeat for the Democrats in November. He should not be the nominee for that reason alone.

Many of his supporters are so fervent that they risk dividing the Party to a fatal degree. Bernie has been almost Trumpian in encouraging their truculence. Many moderates who despise Trump might nevertheless sit the election out if Bernie is the Democratic nominee. It’s a worrisome situation.

America the Beautiful Has Fallen Gravely Ill

New story: “Forty-four percent of Americans view Trump favorably,                                                                          according to a recent poll, matching his highest rating ever.”

The Grim Reality

This comment in an opinion column caught my eye: “But the more impressive the Democrats’ case is, the more depressing the reality becomes.” This perfectly captures the situation. The reality is the perfidy of Republican denial of the gravity of the crimes committed by Trump and his collaborators. The response of Republican senators planning to acquit Trump is to sink to ever lower moral depths in order to support him no matter how much overwhelming  evidence against him mounts up. 

Who’s the Best Democratic Candidate?

Right now, things look more up in the air than ever.  Bernie is showing exceptional polling strength, but he’s grouchy and he’s dangerously to the left politically. And he’s the oldest of the old. Reports of Biden’s failings keep surfacing. Warren is still reeling from her clumsy handling of the Medicare for All business. Klobuchar appears to me to be the best candidate, but for some reason she’s way behind the leaders in the polls. Buttigieg strikes me as too young, too inexperienced, and talks too much like a computer program. Bloomberg is a force to be reckoned with –– Our billionaire can best your billionaire, a dispiriting thought.

All of the above would be preferable to another four years of Trump by an astronomically wide margin.

Who’s the Best Democratic Candidate?

Right now, things look more up in the air than ever.  Bernie is showing exceptional polling strength, but he’s grouchy and he’s vulnerably to the left politically. And he’s the oldest of the old. Reports of Biden’s failings keep surfacing. Warren is still reeling from her clumsy handling of the Medicare for All business and wasn’t helped by initiating a spat with Bernie. Klobuchar appears to me to be the best candidate, but for some reason she’s way behind the leaders in the polls. Buttigieg strikes me as too young, too inexperienced, and talks too much like a computer program. Bloomberg is a force to be reckoned with –– Our billionaire can best your billionaire, a dispiriting thought.

Any of the above would be preferable to another four years of Trump by an astronomically wide margin.

Cover and Cover Up

The goal of Republicans in the impeachment trial of Trump is to cover up his commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, which more than justify his conviction and removal from office. For that reason they support Trump’s blocking access to key witnesses and his refusal to turn over relevant documents. Because Republicans control the senate, they have the power to cover up evidence, make a sham of the trial, and acquit Trump.

A further problem for them remains. They have to reckon with the court of public opinion. Otherwise, it will be all too obvious that the senators voting for acquittal, rather than adhering to the oath each took to administer impartial justice, chose to participate in the cover-up of Trump’s wrongdoing. These benighted politicians need Trump’s legal team to provide the semblance of cover for them. 

Trump’s lawyers don’t have the barest traces of a professionally respectable legal argument or supporting facts, so they have fallen back on the only recourse available. which is to employ bombast and affected outrage, hoping to achieve with heat what they lack in light. That’s the Republican strategy: Cover-up and Provide Cover. 

The Gun Rights Rally

It was quite something. watching TV, seeing the guys at the Richmond, Virginia, gun rights rally last weekend. They were standing around looking wary and awkward with AK-47s and the like strapped on their shoulders. They were trying to look ready for action, ready to be heroes. 

Why did they acquire those heavy-duty military-style weapons? Almost none of these guys plans to shoot anybody. I think the reason most of them acquire a weapon designed for committing mass murder is so that if, in the years ahead, anyone (like some liberal who’s gotten in power, for instance), tries to take it away from them, they’ll be ready to defend their right to keep it. They’ll be ready to fire it. That’s because their reason for obtaining it was to make sure no one would take it away from them.

Impeachment Trial Reality

It would take every Democratic senator and 20 Republican senators, to satisfy the Constitutional requirement of a two-thirds vote to convict Trump and remove him from office. Everyone agrees that this won’t happen, no matter what happens at the Senate trial (or, as Republicans hope they can succeed in it being, faux trial). As Robert Reich has pointed out, it logically follows that “there aren’t 20 Republican Senators with the courage and integrity to protect the Constitution and the nation from the most dangerous and demagogic president in history.” It is this fact, no less than the phenomenon of Trump itself, that is one of the most dismaying facts of our times.

One of the Troubles with Senator Cory Gardner

Colorado Republican senator Cory Gardner, seeking reelection to another six-year term in November, clings to the elephant in the room while pretending not to see it. 

The elephant is Trump, and what’s elephantine about him is his abuse of power, not just any abuse of power, but gross abuse in the form of conditioning release of Congressionally authorized and legally mandated military defense funds to Ukraine on that country’s president’s participation in a fraudulent campaign to malign Trump’s political opponent for Trump’s personal gain and directly contrary to the security interests of the United States.

The pretending not to see it is Gardner’s strategy of stepping up sending emails to his constituents (of whom I’m one), extolling his accomplishments, while remaining silent about the paramount issue facing our country –– the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump.

Dishonorable Senators, continued:

As more credible evidence piles on in support of the already overwhelming evidence of Trump’s commission of multiple high crimes and misdemeanors, Republican senators who have dug in –– who have shown themselves determined to acquit him no matter what –– have revealed themselves in ever brighter light to be knaves and scoundrels. We just have to hope, and besides that, do what we can to help make it happen, that despite the oncoming blitzkrieg of right-wing media propaganda, social media disinformation campaigns, and voter suppression by Republican-controlled state governments, enough voters in the November elections will have grasped that Trump and his entourage –– the whole lot of them –– should be turned out of office forthwith.

Dishonorable Senators

Thursday all 50 United States States senators swore to fulfill their constitutional duty to be impartial in the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump. It is incontrovertible that several of them, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, having already announced their intention to acquit Trump as quickly as possible, swore falsely. Imbued with the Trumpian ethos, they have abandoned even the pretense of moral integrity.

Dishonorable Senators

Thursday all 50 United States States senators swore to fulfill their constitutional duty to be impartial in the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump. It is incontrovertible that several of them, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, having already announced their intention to acquit Trump as quickly as possible, swore falsely. Imbued with the Trumpian ethos, they have abandoned even the pretense of moral integrity.

The Most Disheartening Fact

It’s no longer possible, if it ever was, for an informed honorable person to defend Trump. The most disheartening fact is how many informed people are not honorable.

The Warren – Sanders Feud.

It appears that about a year ago, Sanders either told Warren or implied, or didn’t quite imply, but Warren (probably with some justification) inferred, that Sanders didn’t think a woman could be elected president. Under the pressure of their rivalry and because of their natural competitiveness (qualities that helped get them to where they are), Warren decided to confront Sanders with her recollection, surely thinking that exposing what he had said would work to her competitive advantage. Sanders, having his own contrary recollection and interpretation of what he had said, denied Warren’s allegation. Under pressure, they both hardened their positions, and after Tuesday night’s debate, they indulged in a further exchange that was videoed and became public, with the result that they each came off as having accused the other of lying. Warren is most at fault in this episode. She should not have raised the issue –– there was no way any good for either of them could have ensued from pursuing it in public. Warren ended up hurting herself as much as she hurt Sanders. The episode strengthened my (still tentative) preference for Amy Klobuchar.

Last Night’s Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate

My tentative favorite continues to be Amy Klobuchar.  She is experienced and has a terrific record. There’s a problem with the basic situation: Biden has by far the strongest support among black voters in the south, and black voters in the south are likely to decide who wins the primary in their respective states. So that gives Biden an edge up in winning the nomination. But all those black voters in southern states are highly unlikely to turn their states blue in the general election. Biden may be able to run stronger in southern states than any other candidate but be unable to win them. I think the most desirable candidate is the one who can win the big northern swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and for the moment, at least, Klobuchar looks to me to be closest to meeting that requirement.

Back Home

Back home last night from traveling to Los Angeles mainly to visit my grandson. 

I’ll be watching the Democratic presidential candidate debate this evening and resuming this blog tomorrow.

Traveling

Still traveling plus my blog posting application isn’t working

traveling

Traveling this weekend. This blog will resume Wednesday Jan 15.

Traveling

Traveling this weekend. But hope to have something to say Saturday.

McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been one of the most durable and effective of the enemies of American democracy. It’s nice to know that he may soon have to squirm. He has said that he will not be impartial in the constitutionally mandated trial of the impeachment of Trump. He has made it clear that he wants to engineer a quick acquittal of Trump and doesn’t give a damn about justice. As Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig pointed out in an op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post, to participate in the trial –- to act as a juror in his capacity as a United States senator –- McConnell must swear an oath to do impartial justice. Unless he disavows his earlier statements and acts accordingly –– don’t hold your breath –– McConnell will have to swear a false oath. Lessig points the likely consequences for such behavior. If McConnell gets his comeuppance, it will be justly deserved.

Cory Gardner and the Let’s Pretend Party

Senator Cory Gardner (R. Colorado), frequently sends his constituents emails telling what great things he’s been doing for them. He never mentions Trump. He wants everyone to play “Let’s pretend” with him: Let’s pretend Trump isn’t a dangerous sociopathic president who has been impeached and is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and should be removed from office for the good of the country, and the entire world. The Republican Party has become the Let’s Pretend Party. No rebel is Cory Gardner. He’ll tag along all the way.

Our Country Is Sick

Gaining nothing except risking a full-scale war with Iran, Trump first abrogated the nuclear deal with Iran, then ordered the assassination of Iran’s top military leader, Qasem Soleimani. Iran promptly renounced its remaining restraints under the nuclear deal that was forged during the Obama administration. We can expect Iran to proceed at top speed to develop nuclear arms capability. Trump is a dangerous sociopath. The Republican members of Congress are acting shamefully, selfishly, and stupidly in blocking his removal. That we are in these circumstances is an indication that our country is sick. We don’t know whether the malady is curable.

The Wild Year Ahead

The future is unpredictable, except that it’s certain that 2020 will be a wild year. There’s almost no limit to what Trump will do; nor to what his enablers in Congress and the right-wing media will allow him to do. The political campaign will be little short of war, as two astute Washington Post columnists recently warned:

Jennifer Rubin: “You can expect a vicious, anti-factual campaign that likely will make 2016 look like a picnic.”

Greg Sargent: “If you thought the 2016 election was awash in disinformation and lies, get ready: The 2020 election is going to make that affair look like a knitting session.”

Biden for One Term

If Joe Biden is nominated and wins the election, he will be 78 by the time he’s inaugurated. In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, Timothy Egan suggests that Biden pledge that, if he’s elected, he will serve only one term. I like this idea a lot. It would allay fears of Biden remaining in office for a second-term, into his mid-eighties, with possible decreasing mental acuity and increasing risk of debilitating illness. It would also allay fears that the Democratic Party is in the grip of older people who are to a large extent stuck in the past. Biden’s V-P pick would be much younger, smart, progressive, and dynamic, and someone who would attract younger and minority voters. Names mentioned are Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, and Julián Castro. I would rule out Buttigieg, because I think broader ethnicity would be preferable to two white guys.

Trump’s Strategic Vision

Ordered to do so by Trump, U.S. forces assassinated Iran’s most important military commander. Iran’s supreme ruler has promised revenge. Tens of millions of Iranians who were preoccupied with opposing despotic rule of their country are now preoccupied with opposing the United States. 

Iran’s ruler must take revenge against the United States, as promised. Otherwise, he would look weak and fearful. Once revenge is taken, Trump must take counter revenge. Otherwise, he would look weak and fearful. What will come of this no one knows except that it won’t be good.

Can even the most slavish, opportunistic, feckless, cynical Trump supporters imagine that Trump’s actions are motivated by U.S. security interests? Trump will only do what he thinks is most likely to keep himself in power. That is the beginning and the end of Trump’s strategic vision.

Climate Change Effect

The Washington Post reports: “Thousands flee Australia’s coastal towns as raging wildfires close in. A navy ship prepared to evacuate tourists and residents from one remote area, as authorities warned of potentially catastrophic conditions this weekend.”

This reminds me of the Dunkirk evacuation (1940), when Hitler’s army forced people to escape into the sea. In the twenty-first century it’s climate change. 

Thunberg

In a recent BBC interview with  Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough asked her what she thought of attacks on her by Trump and others. She answered: ”Those attacks are just funny. Because I mean they obviously don’t mean anything. Well I guess of course it means something. It means that they are terrified of young people bringing change, which they don’t want. But that is just a proof that we are actually doing something. And that they see us as some kind of threat.”

Voices like Thunberg’s are like flowers springing up in a ravaged and desolate landscape.

Barr 

Attorney General Bill Barr is a dangerous criminal. That may sound like hyperbole. I’m not suggesting that Barr could be convicted of violating any criminal law. But I consider it to be a dangerous form of criminality to apply oneself to subverting the United States Constitution by reshaping our government into religious-based authoritarian rule, and that’s what Barr and like-minded extreme radical confederates are up to. Barr is not a Trump toady. Trump is an instrument that Barr and his allies are using to twist American democracy into their favored model of government. For more on this, read the op-ed piece in this morning’s online New York Times by Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, titled “Bill Barr thinks America is Going to Hell.” 

Shared Fact-Based Reality

Did you ever think you’d come across such an odd phrase?

The alternative is shared fiction-based reality, which is prevalent among a large segment of the U.S. population and is what Trump and Trumpians want to impose on the rest of us.

The New York Times asked ten super smart people to predict how the world would be in 2030. Garry Kasparov had the best comment, I thought. He said that the post-truth reality that has had increasing currency in recent years was the greatest threat. In the Soviet Union, where he once led a luxurious but constricted life as a chess champion, truth was what the government said it was each day. The greatest challenge of the 2020s will be for shared, fact-based realty to prevail. 

India in Transistion

Prime Minister Modi’s popularity among Hindus, who comprise an overwhelming majority of the country’s population, is perpetuated by his oppression and disenfranchisement of 200,000,000 Muslims. India, often recognized as the world’s largest democracy, is sliding toward autocratic rule. 

Twenty-Twenty

This will probably be the title of a book written by a historian about one of the most tumultuous years in modern history. Maybe the book will be titled “2020.” It won’t need a subtitle.  

Twenty-twenty looms like a great approaching storm. Soon we’ll be immersed in it. If America can’t rid itself of Trump in the next thirteen months, the years following will be bleak ones.

Merry Christmas

Whatever your faith, or lack of it –– Merry Christmas to all. 

The Super Rich and Acquisitiveness

It would be nice if the super rich, who by definition have a lot more money than they need, would all lobby for a much more progressive tax structure, but it’s not hard to see why only a handful of them, at most, do. They got to be super rich by being acquisitive, or in some cases because their forebears were acquisitive. It’s in their nature to want to hold on to what they have and to want even more than they have. Tom Steyer is a rare and commendable example of a billionaire who advocates a more progressive tax structure. Yet he’s still very much in acquisition mode –– he wants to acquire the presidency. When he doesn’t get it, will he still be a crusader for progressive tax structure reform? Maybe he will, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The Despicable Phoniness of Mitch McConnell

Headline: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of trying to tell his chamber how to run a trial.” This is typical McConnell phony talk. Pelosi isn’t telling him how to run a trial; she’s only telling him that he should conduct a trial, as contemplated by the Constitution: That means having witnesses testify, relevant documents admitted, and arguments made, rather than going through a few meaningless formalities, followed by a vote resulting in instant acquittal, followed by proclamations that Trump has been vindicated.

A Good News Story

This morning my eyes moved to and fastened on a Washington Post headline with the alacrity of a thirsty traveler in the desert coming upon an oasis with cool clear water springing out of the ground: “Blight wiped out the American Chestnut. We’re close to bringing it back.” Decades of dedicated bioengineering and breeding techniques may finally restore the eastern United States’s most magnificent tree, whole forests of which were destroyed by blight early in the 20th century. When I was a little boy in the 1930s, climbing my grandmother’s horse chestnut tree, adults told me how it was a pale reminder of the great American tree of the past. It will be inspirational if it returns, an indication that perhaps there’s a chance we can stem environmental degradation; that there’s a chance that the future might be brighter than the past.

What Kind of Democratic Candidate Is Most Likely to Beat Trump?

Two super-smart political observers I much admire are Robert Reich and Jennifer Rubin. Reich says that the only nominee who can beat Trump is one with a full-blown progressive agenda, namely Sanders or Warren. Rubin’s view is that the candidate most likely to win is one with a moderate realistic agenda.

I’m not sure who’s right, but I agree with a Huffington Post headline this morning stating that Pete Buttigieg (a leading moderate contender) was wrong to meet with super rich donors in a billionaire’s crystal wine cave, an event that, sickeningly, reminded me of Hillary Clinton’s highly paid speeches in private to Goldman Sachs executives.

Amy Klobuchar remains as my tentative choice for the Democratic nominee

Last Night’s Democratic Candidates Debate

The debate benefited from the reduction of the field from 10 to 7. Biden held up well. Warren was as impassioned as ever, but still not convincing that she would overcome practical problems in achieving her goals. Yang has no chance of being the nominee, but he always has interesting things to say. Klobuchar remains my tentative choice to head the ticket. Steyer should drop out and help finance important senatorial campaigns and, of course, throw his financial weight behind the eventual nominee. Buttigieg is steady and prepared, but I think he would be a poor choice to head the ticket; nor should he be the V-P nominee, who must be someone who inspires a very large minority voter turnout, for example Harris, Booker, or the woman who could be the Democrats’s secret weapon –– Stacey Abrams. 

The Impeachment

Yesterday’s impeachment debate consisted of democrats laying out the overwhelming evidence of Trump’s abuse of power, betrayal of his oath of office, and constitutionally prohibited obstruction of Congress, and Republicans, having no defense, indulging in a sickening display of ranting, name-calling, insults, diversions, obfuscations, and outright lies. As Jennifer Rubin put it in one of her Washington Post columns last yesterday, “The Republican Party will be known not as the Party of Lincoln but the Party of Trump, a quisling party that lost its bearings and its soul to defend an unhinged narcissist.” The great drama, in which the fate of American democracy hangs in the balance, continues to unfold before our eyes. 

Particularly Ominous Sign of Climate Change of the Week

A week ago, I wrote:

It seems that about once a week I see a news story about how new studies or data show that global warming is happening at a faster rate than previously thought. 

Yesterday, arriving right on schedule, was this news report:

“Australia braces for highest temperatures in recorded  history amid blistering heat wave.”

 

Brazenness in the Extreme

The public announcements of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsay Graham that they have no intention of conducting a constitutionally mandated trial of Trump is shocking. Contrary to their obligations under the Constitution, they have admitted, in fact bragged, that instead of acting as fair-minded jurors and examining the facts relating to Trump’s multiple impeachable offenses, they will work to bring about his acquittal as quickly as possible; in short, they have said that they will act as members of Trump’s defense team.

     That Republican senators would countenance Trump’s corrupt and criminal behavior is shocking. That they would abandon any pretense of examining the facts and searching for the truth is an example of brazenness in the extreme. It exposes their larger intention, which is nothing less than to bring about the transition of our country from a constitutional democracy to a republic controlled permanently by one party, free of constitutional restraints. Trump is old and inept. They don’t see him remaining long as a quasi king. He is useful to them because of his demagogic gifts. They see him as a convenient instrument they can use to effect the destruction of American democracy.

Unpredictability and Continuity

We don’t regard the future as being entirely unpredictable; we count on some degree of continuity. Until recently, I would have predicted that it would be unthinkable that every Republican senator would defend the behavior of an American president who compromised national security by conditioning release of congressionally approved military assistance to a besieged American ally on that country’s president agreeing to participate in a deceptive and dishonest scheme to discredit the American president’s prime political rival. 

I would have predicted that it would be unthinkable that one of our two major political parties would be willing to participate in transitioning our country from a constitutional democracy into an autocracy. 

It’s evident that we can’t count on as much continuity as I had thought.      

Fooling People

Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Superficially this sounds reassuring, but Lincoln didn’t say –– because it wouldn’t have been true ––  that “You can’t fool most of the people some of the time,” or even “You can’t fool most of the people most of the time.” 

Fooling as many people as much of the time as possible is the principal goal of the Republican Party and its allies.

The Warriors

Trump praised the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who defended him, calling them “warriors.” He was right. Rather than fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to consider the facts and come to a reasonable conclusion as to whether Trump committed impeachable offenses, they conducted warfare. Trump’s conduct was impossible to defend  with rational arguments, so they ignored the facts and hurled toxic adjectives and phrases at the Democrats conducting the proceedings: “abuse” … “outrageous” … “kangaroo court” … “witch hunt” … “scam” … “farce”… “bogus” . . .  “like Stalin” . . .

     All evening long you could hear the shells flying, warriors firing, creating sound and fury signifying the morally bankruptcy of the Republican Party.

Amy Klobuchar for President (tentatively)

I think she’s the least vulnerable to effective attack of all the candidates. She’s smart, competent, practical, and politically experienced. She has an impressive grip on all areas of governance. She’s from the heartland; I would expect her to run very well in the key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I think she’s the candidate least likely to falter between now and election day. I think she’s the candidate most likely to beat Trump. 

It’s not impossible that I’ll change my mind before Super Tuesday, March 3, when I’ll be casting my vote. Right now, I think there’s an 80% chance I’ll stick with Amy.

Barr

Former attorney general William Holder: ”Last month, at a Federalist Society event,  the attorney general delivered an ode to essentially unbridled executive power, dismissing the authority of the legislative and judicial branches — and the checks and balances at the heart of America’s constitutional order.”

Barr bears no resemblance to a normal attorney general. He acts as he if he is Trump’s literate mouthpiece, speaking far more eloquently, through no less dishonestly and malevolently, than Trump.  

Most progressives regard Barr as a Trump toady, another person in a high position who has jettisoned whatever moral scruples he might have to gain favor with Trump and the support of the Trump base. I don’t think think Barr is a Trump toady. I think he would be more accurately described as an ultra conservative (meaning ultra radical) perverted-Christian, in his case Catholic (in contrast to an authentic Catholic Christian like Nancy Pelosi), authoritarian obsessed with secular liberal trends and willing to do whatever it takes to convert the United States from a liberal democracy to a theologically grounded authoritarian state. Barr doesn’t consider Trump to be his leader. He sees Trump as a useful tool in his effort to reshape our country into the mold he craves. Ted Cruz and Mike Pompeo have similar mindsets. To the extent people like this have power, they present a grave danger to our country.

A Particularly Ominous Sign of Climate Change

It seems that about once a week I see a news story about how new studies or data show that global warming is happening at a faster rate than previously thought. Yesterday I ran across this:

News Item: “Rapid warming in the Arctic has caused the region to cross a key threshold and become a net emitter of greenhouse gases.” 

The reason is that melting of the permafrost allows methane to seep into the atmosphere. This is the kind of phenomenon that contributes to a runaway effect, wherein even if we were able to cut emissions to zero, global warming would continue by the operation of processes we have set in motion. 

Inequality, Greed, and Deception

News Item: In 2018, the top 400 earners for the first time paid a lower effective overall tax rate than working-class Americans.

I remember when a couple of years ago Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest of the rich, commented that his secretary was taxed at a higher effective rate than he was. What an odd fact. Doesn’t seem right, does it? That was the last I heard about this from Buffet. He strikes me as an honorable man, but he hasn’t become a crusader for a more progressive tax structure. 

One the many sad things competing for the saddest thing about our present situation is that Republican propaganda has duped so many low-income workers into imagining that Republicans are their champions, protecting them from the “tax and spend” Democrats. 

On the Road to Autocracy

Trump has accused Democrats of trying to effect a coup by impeaching him. On the contrary, authoritarians are trying to effect a coup by supplanting our constitutional democracy with an authoritarian regime: Out with democracy; in with autocracy is their goal. They are doing this (quoting constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe), by protecting “a president whose Justice Department says he cannot be indicted, whose White House counsel says he cannot even be investigated, and whose lawyers say he can block the executive branch from participating in the impeachment process.” 

Rules for Success

Nicholas Kristoff’s New York Times column this morning lists four principles to follow to achieve success. His advice is obviously addressed to young people, but should be of interest to older people as well. There may be hundreds of such recipes floating around, with huge variations among them. Kristoff’s is somewhat surprising and probably one of the best. 

His number 1 is: Take a course in economics, specifically in statistics. I agree.  If you don’t understand a concept like “reversion to the mean,” for example, you’re less likely to be good at thinking straight. Number 2 is to find a cause bigger than yourself. That’s absolutely true, but I would supply a big caveat: Make sure the cause is a worthy and honorable one, something that can make the world a better place. Number 3 is to find a supportive and loving mate. That too is wise, but easier said than done. To make sure you’re psychologically equipped to make the right choice, you have to follow a bunch of other rules I won’t get into here. Number 4 is to get “outside your comfort zone.” Particularly, live in country for a year where a language other than English is spoken. Become so fluent that you can even say the word for doorknob in that language. 

I agree with this one as well, but, if you embark on such an adventure, make sure you are forced to converse nearly all the time in the language of that country. In one like the Netherlands, for example, you’re likely to find that nearly everyone can speak English. Don’t let them do that to you. 

Absurdity

(to be supplied later)

 Cure-All

News Item: “More than 40 percent of Republicans are favorably disposed, in one poll, toward a presidency unfettered by constitutional checks and balances.” A lot of people, feeling frustrated, want a cure-all. They don’t want to live in a messy divisive democracy. Just think how much could be accomplished if the president didn’t have to deal with all these investigations, and now impeachment, which will consume even more time with a useless senate trial.

The pervasiveness of such delusional thinking is appalling. Everyone of good will must fight to disperse the toxic fog of slurs, lies, and fabrications that Trumpians  pump into the atmosphere day after day after day. 

The Prognosis is Guarded

American Democracy is in the intensive care unit. The patient has some fine doctors and nurses dedicated to saving it, but the hospital is full of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and sociopathic attendants have been trying to wreck the MRI equipment. 

An operation is scheduled for next November. In a properly operated health care facility, there is no question that the patient would survive. 

The Moral Descent of Republicans

Republicans –- just about all of them in Congress –– continue to cling to Trump despite overwhelming evidence of his deeply corrupt and patently impeachable conduct. They should be ashamed of themselves. Lacking the requisite degree of moral integrity to be capable of experiencing such an emotion, they are not. 

It would be one thing if Trump were an ordinary crook, seizing on opportunities to line his pockets with a few million bucks now and then, but also cared about serving the best interests of the United States and showed concern for others than himself and his family. One could imagine being content with letting him serve out his term of office and leaving redress for his crimes to judicial processes. But Trump is no ordinary crook. He knowingly subordinated the security interests of the United States in order to advance his political prospects by smearing a likely political opponent. That Republicans are still willing to defend such conduct signals their moral descent to the basement where Trump himself resides.

Not Just an Ordinary Crisis

Headline:  “Global greenhouse gas emissions will hit yet another record high this year, experts project.”

Can you imagine Trump calling the leaders of the biggest polluting countries and saying, “The fate of humanity will turn on whether we meet this crisis or continue to ignore it. We must unite to radically cut carbon emissions, and we must act now.”

The species Homo sapiens is self-destructing right in front of our eyes.

Bad Air

This morning’s online New York Times has a list of major cities of the world and a notation as the degree of air pollution in each of them on the worst day this year. A few cities suffered only “moderate” pollution, I suspect because of favorable prevailing winds. But unhealthy conditions were registered in nearly every big city. In some, the rating was “hazardous.” In New Dehli “beyond hazardous.”

Even if climate change weren’t a problem, it would be a wise for countries to radically cut fossil fuel emissions and accelerate conversion to alternative energy. There’s no need to debate how fast sea levels will rise. The health of billions of people is at stake.

Trumpism

Poll: “53% of Republicans think Trump is a better president than was Lincoln.” 

Do so many Trump supporters really believe this? I suspect that most of them are ignorant of American history, that few of them tried to reach a considered opinion, and that most of them simply wanted to give a provocative and contentious answer. They are dug in. They have nothing constructive to offer. Clinging to Trump, they say “No” to constitutional democracy, honesty, and decency. Trumpism is a form of nihilism.

A Pernicious Book

Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen, has been eagerly received and applauded in conservative quarters. The title contains a false premise. Liberalism hasn’t failed. It has been maligned, misrepresented, undercut, and eroded by conservative politicians, opportunists, and agenda-driven ideologues.

In an incisive critique of the book in the November 28  New York Review of Books, Robert Kuttner exposes Deneen’s book as “a theologically based broadside against secular modernity.” 

The book exemplifies a strain of largely uncompromising, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest authoritarianism, which its proponents presume to be theologically justified. It exemplifies thinking that is pervasive among highly educated extremely conservative Christians, particularly, it seems, Catholics, both in academia and in public life. Examples of such types among the most powerfully placed Trump enablers include Barr, Pompeo, and at least four, and possibly all five, of the conservative Supreme Court justices.

Books like Deneen’s give characters like these intellectual cover in their efforts to propel American democracy in the direction of a religiously ordered authoritarian state. 

Characteristics That Are Undesirable in a U.S. President

Racist

Cruel

Crude

Boastful

Bullying

Wantonly Capricious

Vengeful

Exemplifies Extreme Narcissism 

Juvenile

Aspires to One-Man Rule

Ignorant of History

Contempt for the Constitution and the Rule of Law

Unrelentingly Mendacious

Self-dealing 

Puts Personal Political Agenda Ahead of National Interest

Encourages Voter Suppression

Coddles dictators

Trashes Alliances with Traditional Allies

Stuffs Federal Courts with Ideologues

Corrupt to the Core 

 

Characteristics That Are Undesirable in a U.S. President

Racist

Cruel

Crude

Boastful

Bullying

Wantonly Capricious

Vengeful

Exemplifies Extreme Narcissism 

Juvenile

Aspires to One-Man Rule

Ignorant of History

Contempt for the Constitution and Rule of Law

Unrelentingly Mendacious

Self-dealing 

Puts Personal Political Agenda Ahead of National Interest

Encourages Voter Suppression

Coddles dictators

Trashes Alliances with Traditional Allies

Stuffs Federal Courts with Ideologues

Corrupt to the Core 

Categories of Trump Supporters and Enablers

 

Righteous authoritarians 

Seekers of a strong leader

Cynical opportunists

Resentful anti-elites

Resentful elites

Survivalists

Greedy rich

Prisoners of the right-wing media bubble

Bigots (all forms)

Frustrated Malcontents 

 

Happy Thanksgiving 

And thanks for tuning in on my blog. I notice that I keep writing about political matters. My original intention was to write about a wide range of topics, but we’re going through a prolonged crisis of utmost gravity –– the survival of American democracy is at stake. One of the unfortunate effects of this is that so much else is crowded out. 

Climate Change and Hopelessness

The latest findings on the rate of climate change and the failure of humans to curb greenhouse gas emissions suggest that we’re approaching a tipping point. 

On this side of the tipping point is the reality that efforts to institute conservation and convert to alternative  energy production have been so sluggish and desultory that we (the people of the world) would have to take immediate drastic action to arrest the accelerating trend –– still in its early stages but clearly established in its trajectory -– toward an uninhabitable world.

On the other side of the tipping point is a sense of hopelessness; a consensus that nothing can be done; resignation that our species is doomed and will probably take all or most macroscopic living organisms along with us.

This doesn’t mean that life can’t be wonderful for most people; that inspiring developments can’t still occur. But on the other side of the tipping point life will be in some respects like life on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, after it passed its tipping point.

We’re a lot better off than passengers on theTitanic who couldn’t get off the ship, which remained afloat for only two or three hours. Even if we do next to nothing to arrest climate change, much of the Earth will remain habitable well into the next century, and possibly for hundreds of years.

News Item: ”On Fox News on Sunday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that he told Trump he was God’s choice.’”

Samuel Johnson got it right when he noted that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but that was about 250 years ago and needs to be updated. Now religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

The Party of the Unacceptable

After Trump was elected in November 2016, veteran journalist Christine Amanpour reacted with a stirring exhortation: “Fight against the normalization of the unacceptable.” Trump was a menace to everything good and the embodiment of everything bad, no less unacceptable because, by the coincidence of unusual circumstances, he had become president of the United States. 

Republicans have not fought against the normalization of the unacceptable. They have shamefully embraced it. They have become the party of the unacceptable.

Common Senses

Headline: Climate Change Action Protestors Delay Harvard – Yale Football Game. From the New York Times report:  “‘It looks like there’s a lot of common sense that has missed their generation’, said Chuck Crummie, 68, who attended the game with his son, a former Yale football player. ‘It goes to show that this generation is all about themselves and not a football game.’”

You could make out a good case that people who are concerned with keeping the planet habitable are showing more common sense than people for whom the sanctity of a football game is of paramount importance and that it is the latter who are “all about themselves.” The episode appears to demonstrate incompatible forms of common sense.

Mass Corruption 

Given the revelations of the impeachment hearings, it’s beyond doubt that the Trump administration is, as Kamala Harris puts it, “a criminal enterprise,” bent on perpetuating its power despite the damage Trump is inflicting on American national security interests and, indeed, on the entire world.  

As of this writing,  the entire Republican Party appears to be subsumed with moral rot. Prominent Republican members of Congress have joined Trump in promoting false narratives manufactured by Russian intelligence services. Their less brazen colleagues, sheep-like, follow along. The Republican Party should be purged of all its members, who should be replaced with honorable persons of conservative bent, people like most Republicans once were.

A Weird Turn of History

History has taken such a weird turn that it’s hard to believe what’s happened. The evidence that Trump has committed bribery and other impeachable offenses is so overwhelming that Republicans have abandoned efforts