The Stonewall King of All Time

From a Google Image Search – The Daily Beast, “The Madness of King Trump”

Trump may be having trouble getting his pricey steel wall-that-is-not-a-wall along our Southern border, but he has managed to build a living wall around himself right there in Washington, a wall that can travel with him and for him. Seems a living wall is far more useful and impenetrable than a physical wall. 

The Republicans already had extreme chops as wall builders, building human stonewalls. After all they had the NRA, with Wayne LaPierre at the helm, that madman who inspires fear in gun owners, fear that any regulation amounts to nullification of the Second Amendment rights of American gun owners, as interpreted by right wing nut burgers. Republicans also have that master of stonewalling, Mitch McConnell in the Senate who figured out how to stonewall even when he only led the Minority.

But when the Republicans got Trumped they ended up with the Stonewall King of All Time. He treats our government as his own personal fiefdom and he keeps hiring and firing until he has the perfect Order of Portly Knights and less portly vassals who swear fealty only to him. These people, most often male, not only resemble stone walls but know how to shut down any opposition with an ominous glare, an emphatic no, or a stubborn opacity. William Barr, with the misleading title of Attorney General, is a member of the Order of Portly Knights; so is Mike Pompeo. Mitch McConnel is a loyal vassal, as are all the Republicans in Washington. Did you see Martha McSally snarl as she dismissed one intrepid journalist as a “liberal hack.” It wasn’t pretty,  Martha, I guess being pretty is not your superpower is it? You are a handmaiden to the powerful patriots loyal to KingTrump. 

It is clear when you approach these experts at stonewalling that they will shut you down with a glance or a growl. This is so far from what we expect or have usually encountered in our democracy/republic that we are rendered speechless. These walls are living walls. You can’t climb over them, you can’t tunnel under them. You have to out-strategize them but liberals are not set up to design an effective attack on the fortress that Trump is building. Not only does he have his legitimate government-approved Knights but he owns a posse of less palatable actors that he can use for illegal activities: people like Rudy Giuliani and even the talkative Lev Parnas (no longer recognized as one of the posse), Michael Cohen who believed, to his chagrin, that loyalty went both ways, Paul Manafort and many others – this posse can expand in size when needed. All it takes to win over a member of the posse is to make them think they are included in the inner circle, that they are courtiers with access to the king.

Trump has learned how to bend the courts of the land to his will and he can do whatever he likes as long as he takes it to one court and then another court, locks up judgement in endless appeals and skates back behind his human wall of thuggish knights. Now he is on trial in the Senate, but it is highly likely that he will skate once again because the doors of the courtroom have already closed out anyone who is not a loyal member of the fiefdom, including all those pesky serfs in the neighboring kingdom, those democrats, who are deluded enough to believe that they still have powers they no longer have. Is this what the American Dream has come to? It is the most frustrating thing to have a government run by an entitled bunch of bouncers who think they are knights.

Dem Debate – "In the Room Where it Happens"

Debate #7, Iowa, Washington Post

“In the Room Where it Happens”

The Democratic debate in Iowa, hosted by CNN was two days ago, a lifetime, I know, given our rapid-fire news cycles. But, before the Senate Impeachment proceedings occupy us entirely, there are things to say. Six candidates were on the stage: Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar. There are several more candidates who did not qualify by DNC rules: Michael Bennet, Mike Bloomberg, Deval Patrick, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, and Andrew Yang. So we had six on the debate stage and six who did not qualify. This was the last debate before the Iowa primaries, much maligned for their lack of diversity and their use of caucusing, which is unfamiliar to most Americans.

The criticism of the debate that I heard most often was that the Dems who make it to the debate stage are too bogged down in policy and are not speaking enough about their ideals and what they will do to inspire and unite Americans. Clearly the six debates in 2019 already covered policy quite thoroughly, and although this debate, the first of six in 2020 did add some discussion of foreign policy, responses to the recent assassination of Soleimani in Iran, how each candidate sees the role of the President relative to war, and whether or not each would bring troops home from the Middle East, exactly which troops and from what countries, health care still took up a lot of oxygen once again. I don’t think we can actually expect the Dems to hammer out the health care plan they will finally design right there on the debate stage with strict rules about the duration of any spoken answers.

The issues of whether Bernie Sanders actually said to Elizabeth Warren that a woman could not be elected to the Presidency, and whether he meant in 2020 or ever, remains a moot point since only the two were present when he said it or didn’t say it. Elizabeth was castigated in the press for going after Bernie in public, but there is also the point that someone who does not back away from confrontation might make a good Chief Executive for the United States of America.

So perhaps it is time to be a bit more abstract and ‘airy fairy’ about the political ideals candidates bring to the table and how they perceive the role of the American federal government. And perhaps it is time to present some of the policies of the current occupant of the oval office that are less than acceptable to those of us who think of the republic as ours rather than Trump’s. Perhaps it is time to highlight the ways in which Trump’s policies have favored white supremacist views that most of us find abhorrent, or at least as something we must guard against, rather than revel in. Perhaps it is time to show why, although his economic policies seem to have America booming, dark clouds could be on the horizon. It is definitely past time to keep letting him skate by as a climate denier in order to allow the wealthy oil and gas investors to keep using old and dangerous energies, thus holding back the innovation of newer, cleaner energies. These new energies may someday prove to have their own dark sides, but right now we need them to fight the global warming which could make our children’s lives dystopian. There are so many Trump policies which make many Americans squirm that I’m sure any panel of debate hosts can come up with quite a list of topics to discuss along these lines.

But what I did enjoy about the debate on Tuesday was all the wonky arguing about policy, the very thing the press deplored. The arguments about health care plans interests me, and how to lower drug prices, and how to help working Americans, and the schooling of Americans, and how all-out to go on fighting climate change and pollution. In a way it felt as if the Democrats were already in charge of the Presidency and Congress and we were all ‘in the room where it happens” with them. It felt like a glimpse of a post-Republican dominated government, and it was a good feeling not to be shut out or insulted, talked down to and demonized. The Republicans used to all have the same list of “talking points” and speak of them as if they were the new ten commandments. At least when Democrats disagree on policy we can see that we will not get a party that has sold out its soul to win, but instead, a party that still values creative process and discussion, things at the heart of a healthy democracy.  

2020 Election: Money, Racism, Misogyny, Brutality

From a Google Image Search – Big Blue Tent – Travel Wisconsin

Today, 1.13.2020, Cory Booker dropped out of the 2020 race. America lost out on Kamala Harris. And Julian Castro. The press is pointing out the ironies of a “big tent” party, a party that would like to back so-called “minorities” like Americans of African descent and Americans of Spanish descent and women (not a minority at all but still classified as such). In fact any Democratic candidate who is trying to run a grassroots-funded campaign will continue to be in trouble in the race for office in 2020. 

Democrats are strong opponents of the Citizens United decision which, in a sense, gave votes to corporations, to money (not an organic life form) and to wealthy Americans (they can buy votes with ads and deeply-strategized ground games). If you saw Rachel Maddow’s wall graph showing the campaign war chest for each Democrat in the 2020 presidential race (except Mr. Deval) then you saw the enormous funds backing the billionaires and you saw the puny amounts raised from individual voters. Our donations are small and they still impact our personal budgets. It begins to seem ridiculous to even bother sending in our ones, tens and fifties. We are each a David fighting a Goliath and it is becoming clear to us that even hundreds of thousands of us are unable to make even a dent in what the Goliaths can come up with. And, although they may feel pained by their enormous expenditures, we know they will not be poor when this is all done.

So it is interesting to note that there is not a pool of Americans of African Descent who can run as billionaire candidates even though African Americans have been in American longer than most of our ancestors. Racism and its effects on black fortunes couldn’t require any clearer evidence than this. Nor is there a pool, or big enough pool, of billionaires of Spanish descent, or billionaire women to try to buy the Presidency. This election looks difficult enough without trying to inject financial purity into it.

There is also the Trump factor infecting all of our decisions about the perfect 2020 candidate, and it is hardly inconsequential. Trump has the charisma that Jack Nicholson displayed as the Devil in the film Witches of Eastwick, which some of you probably did not see because you are too young. For a while that devil charmed us all, until he didn’t. (The analogy seems to fall apart because some of us have never been charmed by Donald Trump, but it is apt in many ways.) Time marches on and we have now seen many sides of Donald that never bothered us much as long as he wasn’t our President. One of his worst sides is his belief in white supremacy and another is his misogyny. Lying of course, and cheating are also sins that have served him well in getting elected.

Because Trump runs a very duplicitous, alpha male, white-Europeans-rule kind of race Democrats realize that he would, most likely, have greater success demonizing minority candidates than he would against white male candidates, although they have not proven better at standing up to Trump’s patter (which should not work). We worry that with all the racist undercurrents being called forth once again in America and all the anti-immigrant feelings being whipped up and with the fact that Trump empowers white men (who knew they needed to be more empowered) a “minority candidate” could be brutalized in the 2020 election and that however hard they punched, Trump’s long years of practice with counterpunching and his lessons from expert counterpunchers like Roy Cohn and his dad, would leave these opponents bloodied and would give us four more years of a ruinous Trump presidency. Perhaps we are simply being protective of the members of our party most likely to be obliterated by the meanest old man we have ever encountered who isn’t spending his senior years in a recliner.

I’m still reading David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass (it’s a long one). Mr. Douglass’s long career as a warrior who used words to fight slavery, which he understood intimately having been a slave himself, made him feel a bit despondent at the actual unfolding of the Reconstruction which was bloody and deadly for freed slaves in the south. But he immediately recognized that many white slave owners feared reprisals. He also recognized that the South never had to feel the real sting of losing the Civil War. These slave states were welcomed almost immediately back into the Union and as soon as the war was over many southerners returned to serve in the Senate and the House. By then Douglass could see that being set free did not mean that southern hearts had been changed. They still saw black folks as inferior to whites and they certainly did not want them to vote or own land or amass fortunes. Douglass would be saddened to know that these racist elements still exist in America, and be appalled by the amount of time that has passed, as time should have changed such prejudices far more than it has. He rejoiced when the 15th amendment gave freed slaves the vote, but despaired at the horrific backlash in some southern states. 

It is such a sad commentary on American progress with respect to acceptance and tolerance, that in what could be America’s  “space age” (if we aren’t too engrossed in simply trying to survive), we are still fighting the Civil War and battling for equal rights for Americans of color and for women (who achieved the right to vote last).

Don’t be too hard on the Democrats right now because we can only conjecture, run the numbers, employ a great ground game and accept what a tough road it could be to beat this bad man who is still an incumbent and who has both the Republicans and the Fundamentalist vote-getting machinery behind him.

John Katko Hearts Donald Trump

The Daily Beast

I told John Katko, my representative in the US House of Representatives for the 24th district in NYS through the Countable app, that I would (if I could) vote yes to impeach Donald Trump and, although I knew he wouldn’t vote to impeach, I really wanted to know why a person who claims the moral high ground would choose to support “that man” over upholding his oath to protect and defend the US Constitution?

He sent me a letter by email (copy below) but all it contains is the same inauthentic party line answer that every “loyal” Republican party member gives – the evidence does not prove that the President’s actions rise to the level of being impeachable. Apparently we don’t just have different party affiliations, we have different interpretations of the Constitution. He says that he is working to solve many problems in the community and he is present for every vote, but he knows his party members in the Senate are not allowing action on these bills. 

It made me sad to realize that I am represented in Congress by a man who thinks so little, and examines his conscience in such a superficial manner that he simply offers up a manufactured excuse to cover up his lack of courage and originality, and his naked ambition. It is difficult to buck the extreme partisan pressures in Congress, pressures that so resemble the peer pressures we have supposedly long outgrown. Or perhaps due to arrogance and hubris Mr. Katko feels absolutely justified in his decision. But I find his moral blindness depressing.

John Katko was tough on crime in my city when we were experiencing lots of gang violence, but when he was done arresting perpetrators and putting them in prison, that area of stubborn poverty and segregation, so extreme that a group called The Century Foundation wrote a paper about it, was just as poor and just as segregated as when he began his task force. Neither he, nor anyone on the task force included any programs to work to improve opportunities for the residents, to try to change the cultural loop that had everyone stuck in place. Perhaps not his fault completely, because these were “law and order” days, these were the days when officials felt the need to get tough and felt no duty to change the community for the better beyond getting “bad” guys off the streets. These were the days of “stop and frisk,” the days of “lock them up” and don’t worry about any fallout in the community. 

Now, although we understand that there was a complicated system of racism involved and that minorities were being jailed at rates that were not proportional to the overall offender population, John Katko  still shows no flexibility, no soul-searching, and offers no solution for that area of his constituency trapped in an opportunity desert. For a city that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad our continued segregation is a stain on our character. We the people, here in NY24, deserve a representative in Congress who is not just a Republican rubber stamp. Do not return this man to Congress.

Note: Since the New Year and since Trump ordered the killing of Qassem Suleimani, the House passed a new resolution to make it clear that the Congress is to be consulted about executive decisions that might cause a war and needs Congressional approval to declare war. Representatives in the House do not believe the President has shown the danger of “imminent attack.” Although the measure passed, John Katko voted no on this resolution also. John Katko supports and imperial view of the Presidency.

This a scanned copy of the letter I received from John Katko:

Iran from the Cheap Seats

Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) square in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The processions mark the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic, received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will lie in state at Tehran’s famed Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

When it comes to the situation in Iran all I can do is offer my view from the cheap seats. I am no Middle Eastern scholar. I find the history of America’s relationship with Iran so disheartening that reading about it just makes me feel angry at the country I love. We meddled, we meddled a lot, and not for any altruistic reasons either. We created a theocracy stoked by passionate religious patriotism, at least that is the consensus of Middle Eastern experts. Trying to place leaders in power who were friendly to the US backfired, those in the know say. Well, power and money have been the motivations for plenty of the activities in the modern world and we are not alone in having impure motives. But when strategies don’t work it makes no sense to resort to the same strategies over and over again. Is the world a more belligerent place because of America? I don’t know. Other nations besides America seem pretty belligerent also. 

The Iraq war waged by the Bush II administration certainly did open up the animosities in the Middle East and expose them to the light of day. Words like Sunni and Shite and Wahhabism now are familiar words that we toss around in conversation, although we possibly do not have a deep understanding of the entire schema of ideas these words represent. After all this is not a religious tradition most of us are literate in. It seems difficult to comprehend how two branches of a single religion can be at loggerheads, until you think about the history of Catholicism and Protestantism, a religious split in Christianity which was often fraught with tensions or downright hostility and war.

So my cheap seats view does not go back very far, it mostly considers recent events. Clearly Iran’s behavior has been provocative. It has even gone a bit beyond rattling sabers. Perhaps the Iranian government does not respect America under Trump, and he has given the world precious little reason to respect us. We are accepting his imperial take on the Presidency and allowing him to sever relations with allies. We seem unable to exercise any control over his behavior at all. The Republicans are willing to sacrifice the power of their beloved Senate to this President for reasons that are suspiciously seditious. So Iran is venturing forth with more daring tactics as opposed to staying home and taunting from afar. They are making themselves at home in the chaotic Middle East and in Middle Eastern countries too small to put up a fight. This brings the US and Russia in to throw weight around on one side or the other. Iran starts appropriating ships that are transiting the Straits of Hormuz, a tactic they have used before, but still, waving a red flag in front of bulls. 

This is all very worrisome. The Middle East is a tinderbox right now. Into this wanders a wooden match. Into this wanders a President who is already so angry he is about to explode. He has been impeached, and although it is just a flea to him that he can swat away, it has raised his ire. He wants to be loved unconditionally and this is not unconditional love. Iran whips up an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad. The final straw has been added to a giant pile of tinder. This could be Trump’s Benghazi if he doesn’t do something. Personal anger becomes public anger displaced and deployed against a country that is deliberately pushing boundaries and buttons. Trump is offered a variety of responses, but he decides to “release the Kraken,” he pours out all his stored up anger and choses the response that is most extreme. Now that his anger has been temporarily defused he is purring like a kitten. That will not last. This presidency could be the death of America in more ways than one. Live your life, and watch the fates rage, and hope that something as civilized as an election will get us out of this mess.

Dems: Moderates v Progressives

From a Google Image Search – NOQ Report

Obviously everyone is freaked that Dems might run a Progressive in 2020 and dire predictions insist that choosing a moderate is the way to go. I will bow to the decision of the majority but I do believe that history disagrees. Progressives, never popular, have rescued America in several instances that threatened our nation’s very existence. Since I am reading David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass I can’t help but mention the exhaustive Progressive efforts of the abolitionists before, during and after the Civil War. Lincoln, while mainly interested in reuniting America, came to believe that slavery had to end if the republic was to continue. If Lincoln had lived would the Reconstruction have taken the tragic course it took? We will never know, but Douglass felt that what the South got was a southern version of Reconstruction once the racist vice president became the nation’s new leader. Progressivism got nipped in the bud fast at that moment of ignominy and the Jim Crow south was the legacy for almost a century.

When we were deep in the Great Depression progressives were once again able to rescue America, this time the American economy. FDR stepped in to offer government jobs to the jobless, the homeless, the army of poor Americans that threatened to destroy the republic through sheer depression. Programs like the CCC and the WPA, the programs that built dams across American rivers grounded people who felt a sinkhole had opened in their lives. There are Americans who have reviled the actions of FDR, who label him with every evil name that we like to throw at each other when we are riled up, but would the American economy have recovered without his policies? Probably, but not as quickly, nor would people have been given the gift of a sense of purpose.

Lyndon Johnson, not exactly a man filled with sweetness and civility, supposedly, gave us The Great Society, so maligned by so many. He gave us practical programs of social support, educational opportunities, housing assistance and a long list of programs intended to end racial inequality in America. Many critics say that the result of these programs never justified the dollars spent but, despite constant backlash from communities in the form of real estate redlining and from Republicans in Congress who turned aid into a grudging handout with laws that gave with one hand and took away with the other, The Great Society still made a real difference in upward mobility for black folks and poor folks around the nation.

Lincoln did not run for office as a progressive, nor did FDR. Both became more progressive while in office. LBJ, of course, did not run for office at all but completed the term of JFK after his assassination. Could any of these productive presidents have run as progressives and won? We will never know. The enemies of progressive policies are loud and effective in America. 

It seems that our economy does not seem threatened enough to justify a progressive set of policies, although it seems thin and on shaky ground in terms of the wisdom of important economists. What could justify progressive action is taking up the cause of science, tackling what most of us believe is pretty existential climate change and creating a nation that is more “people” oriented and less dollar oriented. 

We could accept that economic inequality has gotten so grossly out of proportion that pretty soon we will have an aristocracy of the wealthy and a virtual serf class underneath. We need incentives to thrive and innovate and, so far, austerity and obscene tax cuts that increase the inequality gap are not offering those incentives. Who knows what could happen if the American people enjoyed policies that allowed them to work without worrying about their children’s days, who were rewarded for hard work both financially and with more time off? Perhaps someone could even come up with a cheap way to turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen and those fossil fuel guys could guzzle to their heart’s content as long as they don’t build pipelines over fresh water reserves or drill in the Arctic.

These thoughts woke me in the middle of the night and inspired this article but when I was reading my morning papers I came across this article in The Daily Beast that does a better job than I have at looking at this same topic:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/donald-trump-and-the-american-hydra-of-nativism-racism-and-isolationism

“The 40 years of reform from the New Deal through the Great Society that created a safety net for the nation’s vulnerable, institutionalized labor rights, forged a progressive tax system that narrowed the gap between rich and poor, and created agencies to protect the public from corporate excess were swept away by the Reagan revolution and the ethos of “Greed is Good.” The seminal Civil Rights legislation of the Great Society in the mid-1960s that restored civil and voting rights to blacks in the South led to a massive defection of whites there from the Democratic Party. And the 1965 Immigration Act that finally did away with the racial quotas of the 1920s produced an unanticipated influx of non-European newcomers that generated a fierce nativist response with its attendant cruelties.”

Read the whole article, it is very germane to the decisions we face. The decision is to go in big for policies that are the opposite of those of the current policy makers or the gut reactions of our 45, or face the reality that most Americans are too afraid to make such giant leaps right now and that a moderate will at least be able to hold the line, perhaps even make some progress that will not upset the timid. To me it seems a great time for grand moves, when we are so stuck, and it seems that there are dangers if we don’t go big. But I will go along with what the Democratic Party decides because I think Dem chances are pretty bad in 2020 and a huge turnout is necessary. However I also have plenty of hope that the universe will give the Dems an assist.

Today (2/6/2020) I found an interesting take from the other side. It is the clearest statement about people’s fears about progressive Dems that I have read:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/will-we-be-enemies–or-fellow-citizenswhat-sherrod-brown-gets-about-trump-and-polarization-that-others-dont/2020/01/05/4d1fe8bc-2e38-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

Planet Earth: A Bit Tragic Around the Edges

Time.org

Planet Earth: A Bit Tragic Around the Edges

Australia

Phys.org

Watching the fires in New South Wales is horrifying. We’ve been there and done that in California, but I haven’t seen people having to wait on beaches to be rescued, sans houses, sans cars, sans clothes, sans everything. I would be beside myself with worry. We are so sorry for your losses.

Watching ice caps melting, calving, or disappearing altogether at both the north and south poles.

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Coastal flooding more common and in more locations tells us seas are rising.

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3 billion fewer birds – the almost literal ‘canaries in the coal mine’. That’s scary.

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Watching koalas on fire, dehydrated and dying of thirst and smoke inhalation. Kangaroos migrating en masse to escape the fires.

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Hot spots in the ocean.

Birds with stomachs full of plastic.

Whales and sharks acting erratically.

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And we, most likely, have not seen anything yet.

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We believe that fossil fuels are the root of all the evils. Even plastic comes from fossil fuels. We need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels but those in power are oil and gas crazy. These commodities are at the very base of our economies and these folks stand to lose fortunes without them. The rest of us stand to lose our comfort. There is no real replacement yet and lives will be impacted either more or less. With wealth concentrated in the hands of a few most of will not be able to afford to use alternative energies. 

The very cure for the world’s economies is killing the world’s ability to support humans and other animals. The fires in New South Wales are a sign. All these things are signs. It looks like we will not act. We will just wait for changes in climate to throw the world into chaos and then we will fight over dwindling food and water supplies. It’s past time to talk about who caused this. We all did. 

Two articles on the subject appeared in the NYT today: