Unseating an American President

Many Americans find our President crass, an ego-driven male drama queen, and an embarrassment. He has us frequently careening along a risky edge, using tactics (or reactions) that might be either purposely or accidentally brilliant, or exactly as overly inflammatory as they appear to be. Are we being led over the brink into World War III or will 45 somehow turn authoritarian world leaders into devoted Trumpers (heaven forfend). Just what we need, an alliance of sharks. What could go wrong? Perhaps we have taken our freedoms for granted. Perhaps we have demanded too many human rights.

Unseating an American President

Many of us like to think that we can find a way to unseat a President we feel is unfit to serve and who we feel will teach us hard lessons about how important our freedoms are and how there is no such thing as asking for too many human rights, until all humans own the rights to a productive life. We pin our hopes on the only Constitutional measures we have, impeachment or the 25th Amendment (a President can be removed if he proves unfit to serve). But you cannot impeach a President unless Congress wishes it and will vote for impeachment. With the Republican Party in charge of Congress and becoming more and more the President’s party, we understand that impeachment is not a possibility. The problem with the 25th Amendment is the pesky little detail that the President’s unfitness to serve must be provable. Proof of someone’s mental state is highly subjective unless they are incoherent or involved in harmful anti-social behaviors (and most adult Americans would have to agree about this).

Since this spoiled man-child also seems to have done an end run around the emoluments clause in the Constitution which prohibits a President from making money from foreign entities while in office, our next move has been to get shut of a person who does not have the moral fiber to be President. Previously Presidents have made trusts for their businesses to wall them off so that their personal money cannot be used as a lever of power against American interests. Previously Presidents also have been willing to present their tax returns in the interests of transparency. It bothers many of us that Trump flouts Constitutional law and tradition as he does, but our documents do not suggest repercussions.

There is also the problem that this American President, even before his election, stepped around our allies and embraced America’s enemies. He asked a nation like Russia, who we have no reason to want to be beholden to, for favors, and then used his favorite way out – consistent and vociferous denial –  until we question our own sanity. We worry that we may have elected an actual crook, involved in money laundering, to sit in our oval office. We look to Robert Mueller to prove that our President did anything at all that could be proven to be illegal, or, perhaps, treasonous, but many warn us that Trump may not be caught in this web and that he does have ways to stop this investigation however terrible the optics of this would be. Mr. Trump seems unconcerned about optics.

Other strategies

Since we seem unable to inspire our President to use a style of governing that is less hair-raising, less slash and burn, the Democratic Party has put in some solid work to recruit new, younger, and more diverse Americans to run for office on the left and to flip the majority in, at least, the House – to take back one branch of government, to restore our system of checks and balances. Will it be too little too late? Have the Dems let the GOP get away with their seditious machinations for too long? The 2018 election looks to be the best of all our options, a “blue wave” as they say, is essential to keeping this President and the GOP from wreaking havoc on our Democracy, a path he is already blazing with a vengeance.

Threat Levels and “Spidey” sense

Should Democrats and their allies be setting the threat level of the Trump-GOP government at Def Con 1 or are the Dems overreacting? Government-by-Tweet is one facet of the Trump Presidency that ups the threat level, but it’s difficult to tell if this is dangerous or just un-Presidential. However, our “Spidey” sense tingles.

We see our American President seeming to cozy up to Russia, China, Turkey, the Philippines, all nations with authoritarian leaders, and excoriating our old and loyal allies and world organizations that have backed and multiplied our power, such as the UN and NATO. Up another threat level.

We see a man who honors no bargains made by anyone except him, willing to alienate anyone in the interests of negotiating simply to prove how good he is at “the art of the deal”. The Paris Climate Agreement Accord, an admittedly toothless agreement, at least consolidated a global commitment to acknowledging and attempting to address possible causes of global warming and climate change, has been abandoned and disrespected by our chief deal maker. This seems like another attack on the other 190+ nations who signed on. He puts his marker on a denial of science, but what if he is wrong (which evidence suggests he is)?

In fact, insulting friends and even some of our rivals seems to be our President’s main MO for keeping everyone riled up, while fomenting uncertainty, and even astonishment, seems to be his sole negotiating style. He is not a nimble negotiator, switching tactics or using subtlety; he is a thug using language to belittle and then clubbing away at whatever matter he wants to change, hoping to beat everyone around the head and shoulders and pout and accuse until he gets his way. What do we gain by alienating everyone on the planet? It seems we don’t get good deals and we lose anyway in the end (as in win a battle, lose the war). Are your senses tingling yet? Does this kind of thing raise the Def Con level?

Our President cannot even seem to honor a tiny promise made by a previous President to a group of children and young adults, brought here by parents when they were too young to even understand their parent’s actions, the Dreamers. When did we start backing out of agreements made with children, a promise to let them stay in America if they are in school or have a job? Why is the DACA agreement being used as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to stop trying to block policies that are against their ideological mindset; to coerce them to look like there is bipartisanship when it is convenient to the GOP, even after the shoddy treatment offered up by the GOP over the entire duration of the Obama administration? (You could replace Dreamers and DACA with CHIP and this would still make sense.)

We are back to threats such as shutting down the government as another way to coerce Dems to look like they will bend over when even a very small, withered carrot is held out (although there is always the possibility that it will be yanked back at the last second, like that football that Lucy taunts Charlie Brown with). Do we dare extend a hand when it will likely be rejected? If we allow ourselves to be insulted at a moment when power is so one-sided, when our anger is likely to be unrequited, how much face do we lose. Should the Democrats knuckle under and let the Republican/Conservative way play out? Will it be as disastrous for America as we think it will be? Even if the Conservative way will play out regardless of what Dems do isn’t it better to be on record with our heartfelt objections and our warnings about the dangers faced by our Constitution and therefore our Democracy/Republic? Perhaps we are only at Def Con 2.

We wish that the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House had been written by a more reputable person than Michael Wolff. It is telling that so many insiders seemed to make the same judgements about the President’s unfitness to serve. But since we are not sure about the author, and it is difficult to prove that insiders said the things that the book claims they said, this book is unlikely to get us any closer to unseating this President than have his refusals to honor the traditional interpretations of the Constitutional admonitions for proper Presidential behavior.

Not Everyone is On Board

Clearly, from my recent interactions with family and friends over the holidays and a few other family rituals, there are many Americans who are not at Def Con 1 or even Def Con 5. They claim that they hate politics, that they are not political (although they are, and vehemently, if you offer up any criticism).

They use evidence from what they see around them in their everyday lives, lives which are circumscribed by their finances and their neighborhoods. They see an improvement in the economy and they see rising employment. They are almost all retired. They do not have to work. They have health insurance. They have grandchildren who are turning out well, with a few worrisome exceptions. Most of the parental generation did not go to college but their children did. Their children were too young to be parents of millennials and just old enough to have stepped out of college into the job market while it was still strong. These offspring possess skills that have kept them employed. The “kids” have been promoted and their salaries have risen with their promotions.

Members of the parental generation are worried about rising health care costs but they blame Obamacare and immigrants/refugees and are happy with Trump’s hard line on immigration, although they may no longer be quite so gung ho about repealing Obamacare.

Their conclusions about America are based on anecdotal observations in their everyday lives and by their own feelings of well-being. It’s a small sample, perhaps 100-200 individuals and not a very diverse sample. But there are other circles of friends and family all over America who describe the same experiences, which offers them proof that Trump and the GOP are doing a good job.

Too many of them listen to FOX News or are too busy to pay much attention to any news. Their desires are simple and involve hanging onto financial and physical comfort and enjoyment of their growing small family dynasties. Vacations and socializing play a big role in the life of retirees who can afford it, which adds to their sense that all is well Their “Spidey” sense is not tingling. The contentment and complacency, along with effective propaganda which supports it, make it more difficult to communicate a sense of the danger. It is difficult to convince people who have not yet experienced even the future negative effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that our Democracy seems to be under a rather extreme renovation, a reconstruction, which could leave us with an America which would be unrecognizable to our forefathers and eventually even to us.

Where Does that Leave Democrats?

So, the hair-on-fire Democrats, the Democrats who feel the threat level rising are finding the resistance movement or even a clarion call for a blue wave is missing people who should be on board but who have not had enough of a shift in their fortunes, or who have been convinced to blame those who have already felt that shift. We cannot count on most of white America to assist in the blue wave we need in 2018. Fortunately, there are many folks with college educations and minority folks already impacted by Conservative racism and “othering” to turn the tide given a fair election. Although things feel quite urgent, our Democracy may prove to be more resilient than we think. But if we become the CSA (Conservative States of America, funny, same as Confederate States of America) it may be decades before we are able to turn things back around to offer opportunities to advance for the middle classes and the poor.

This is a view from the cheap seats.

 

January 2018 Book List

January 2018 Book List

 

Amazon

 

Literature and Fiction

 

Red Clocks: A Novel by Leni Zumas

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson

Green: A Novel by Sam Graham-Felsen

The Boat People: A Novel by Sharon Baia

Heart Spring Mountain: A Novel by Robin MacArthur

Oliver Loving: A Novel by Stefan Merrill Block

The Music Shop: A Novel by Rachel Joyce

A State of Freedom: A Novel by Neel Mukherjee

This Could Hurt: A Novel by Jillian Medoff

 

Biographies and Memoirs

 

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD by Bill Minutaglio, Steven L. Davis

Here’s the Real Magic: A Magical Search for Wonder in the Modern World by Nate Staneforth

Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Brave by Rose McGowan

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury

The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, ashe bendele

The Wizard and the Prophet, Two Remarkable Scientists and their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World by Charles L. Mann

Furnishing Eternity: A Father, A Son, a Coffin and a Measure of Life by David Giffels

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz

 

Mysteries and Thrillers

 

The Wife: A Novel of Psychological Suspense by Alifair Burke

Robicheaux: A Novel by James Lee Burke

The Woman in the Window: A Novel by A. J. Finn

Gnomon: A Novel by Nick Harkaway

The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry

Anatomy of a Scandal: A Novel by Sarah Vaughan

Need to Know: A Novel by Karen Cleveland

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Munich by Robert Harris

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. Tudor

The Wife Between Us: A Novel by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

 

Nonfiction

 

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler and Robin Hansen

The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot

When: The Scientific Study of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World by Charles L. Mann

The Deepest Will: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, MD

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

Saving Tarboo Creek: One Family’s Quest to Heal the Land by Scott Freeman, Susan Leopold Freeman

Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children by Sara Zaske

Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life and the Next War on Violence by Patrick Sharkey

The New York Times Book Review (Abbreviated Lists at Christmas Time because Special Seasonal Books are Reviewed, which I won’t list here)

 

December 17th

 

Nonfiction

 

Cartoon Country by Collen Murphy

Vacationland by John Hodgeman

The Gifted Generation by Daniel Goldfield

A Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary, translated by John Markham

The Kites by Romain Gary

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown

Bloodlines by Melissa del Boque

The Trade by Jere Van Dyk

 

Fiction

 

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Timeless by Armand Baltazar

 

December 24th

 

Nonfiction

 

God: A Human History by Reza Aslan

What the Qur’an Meant by Garry Wills

Belonging: 1492-1900 by Simon Schama

The Book of Separation by Tora Mirvis

The Great Shift by James L Kugel

The Exodus by Richard Elliott Friedman

The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah by Adam Valen Levinson

Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel

Bethlehem, Tracing the Life of a Storied Little Town by Nicholas Blincoe

Heaven on Earth by Michael Shermer

Finding Oneself in a Coffin by David Giffels

 

Fiction

 

Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally

By the Book by Francis Ford Coppola

 

Found object

 

Harriet Tubman’s hymnal

 

December 31st

 

Nonfiction

 

Windfall by Meghan O’Sullivan

Megafire by Michael Kodas

Firestorm by Edward Struzik

The Great Quake by Henry Fountain

Quakeland by Kathryn Miles

The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions by Peter Brannen

Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Megrich

Understanding the Mammoth: A Tale of Giants, Unicorns, Ivory, and the Birth of a New Science by John McKay

The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien

The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg

Inheritance of the Earth by Chris Thomas

 

Column of Fire by Ken Follett – Book

Column of Fire by Ken Follett is the third book in the Kingsbridge Series and my least favorite of the three. It’s not that it was difficult or did not tell a story. It was not so terrible that it made me set it aside or stop reading. I liked the fictional characters placed among the actual historical figures enough to wonder what would happen to them but I did not feel strongly invested in them. I always realized they were fictional and there to involve the reader in the events occurring in the mid 1500’s and beyond in England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Religion was the key issue of these times after the declarations of Martin Luther and the beginnings of a Protestant movement that was growing and alarming Catholics. Protestants thought they could talk directly to God without a priest as intermediary. They published Bibles in national languages, rather than Latin, so people could read the Bible by themselves or in church services. They did not feel any allegiance to the Pope in Rome. Catholics saw Protestants as heretics and felt it their religious duty to crush them and their interpretation of Christianity. As Column of Fire begins Protestants are hunted by Catholics, considered criminals by royals, and must practice their religion in secrecy. But this book also covers the pivotal moment when events, especially in England, turned this dynamic around. By the end of the story Catholics are on the defensive and, at least in England, Protestants can worship without fear.

Since England had recently lost Queen Mary Tudor, a strongly Catholic queen, there were two women who could possible take the throne, Elizabeth Tudor, tolerant of Protestantism, and Mary Queen of Scots, strongly Catholic. The story of how Elizabeth took the throne and how she held it against Catholic sympathizers who stood to lose both their brand of religion and lots of power and money has fascinated readers for centuries. Elizabeth held her throne with the help of talented spies and one of these spies was William Cecil.

Ned Willard becomes one of Cecil’s spies, moving in and out of France, with family in Spain for a while (Barney Willard), who later becomes a shipper and a ship’s captain adding more clout to Ned Willard’s information network. There is a villain, in fact there are two and they are just about as hateful as you would like them to be. Pierre Armande de Guise is an ambitious, soulless creature who uses information he steals through his first wife Sylvie Palot, a list of important Protestants in Paris, to ingratiate himself with the de Guise family and to realize his life time ambition of being a royal (however tangentially). Rollo Fitzgerald, brother of Ned’s first love Margery trains a group of sinister priests and hides them in English households for when Mary Queen of Scots takes the throne from Elizabeth, and an invasion plan is afoot.

Even with the historical drama of this critical time in Europe the book never really taps into that drama. Women are expendable and are damaged by the villains but few men are and there is just little tension and fright in most of the telling of this story. Fortunes do switch from the Catholic Fitzgeralds to the Protestant Willards but Ned is never in any real danger and seems more like a nice guy than a spy. So, what we get in Column of Fire by Ken Follett is a good story, but not a great story.

Our Free Speech Conundrum

Our Free Speech Conundrum

Fox News and right wing media (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart, Alex Jones and Info Wars, et al) are broadcasting fear and hate to anyone who will listen. They bear a huge share of responsibility for the current attack on our Democracy.

But

Since we believe in our 1st Amendment, since we treasure free speech, even if it is propaganda, lies, skewed “facts”, and conspiracy theories, we believe that such speech must be tolerated and we expect citizens to see through and ignore it. It’s our free speech conundrum.

It seems the speech on the right is carefully designed by intelligent, although twisted, people who have been able to analyze the unhappiness, disappointment and anger of people who got shafted by a changing economy and to use this negativity to foment anti-government sentiment (and anti-liberal sentiment), to whip up once-complacent middle class white folks to accept a twisted interpretation of those economic changes that shocked them.

The Real Long Con

It was really a massive con job to get “extraneous” Americans to blame the liberal agenda (the safety net, the regulations, the unions, the human rights laws, the protections of undocumented immigrants, the acceptance of rights for women and same-sex marriage, and much more) for deeds that were perpetrated by the wealthy (The Great Factory Migration, The Great Recession). To me this truly is the greatest long con of all, the one that prepared the way for this “President for the haters and the frightened, and the dispossessed”, and this Republican party who only intend to sideline the middle class and the poor even more than they already have been.

It is a terrible irony that the right-wing media gets to exploit the left wing’s passion for protecting free speech and other rights that are cornerstones of a democracy, of our Republic. The right wing is, meanwhile, using free speech to take away free speech and freedom of religion and human rights, and to steal money from the poor to give to the rich. The right wing also has convinced a segment of Americans that redistribution of wealth down the ladder is wrong (socialism), but redistribution of wealth to the wealthy will somehow benefit us all.

If we lose our Democracy because we love it so much that we have no offense against lies and propaganda, will that be sad, or patriotic? Are there any strategies Dems could use that do not trample on our rights but will stop this assault on the American government and the American people by the right-wing media and the entire Conservative-Republican bloc? The Dems are playing defense, not offense while the GOP is aiming, for some unfathomable reason (money, religion, fear) to dismantle our Democracy and sell it to the highest bidders on the right.

Defense or Offense

Dems are on offense in terms of finding fresh American folks who will run for office in 2018 and there is a strong grassroots resistance — but the right-wing media is a powerful force, continuously pumping skewed information, that we have not found a way to combat. This right-wing media now energizes the Trumpers who are aggressive and arrogant, who feel entitled, and who bash anyone who gives voice to “liberal” speech. They feel no compunctions about depriving others of free speech because, apparently, à la Animal Farm (George Orwell), they feel some speech is better than other speech.

The Trumpers love to turn liberal complaints about the right back at the person who levels the complaint (I’m rubber, you’re glue; everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.) It is like arguing with a toddler. You cannot converse with a right winger because they refuse to engage and only spew brainwashed nonsense and that brings us back to the right-wing media.

The right-wing media should, of course, be able to speak, but they should not have the right to dominate the conversation. They should not have such a giant chunk of network time and they should not be allowed to call the propaganda they broadcast “news.” 45 is trying to shut up mainstream news because it does not skew as far to the right as he would like. This is one front that requires that the left brainstorm to create an effective strategy of offense. We are losing the propaganda war but we are correct in not wanting to use more propaganda to win the war. If we can’t cheat by employing mind control strategies, can we at least stop the President’s campaign to proliferate right wing news and denigrate any other news? Is just calling the real “fake news” out whenever we see it going to be enough to counteract it? Do we have any laws on our side now that the FCC is obviously in “enemy” hands?

Fail and Die: Survive and Live

New TV Reality Show

The American Middle Class is now starring in a new TV reality series based on that old method tough Dads use to teach their children to swim; the old sink-or-swim technique.

The premise of the show is that the wealthy will commandeer all the money, except a pittance. They will take away benefits in the safety net and healthcare programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

The inflation that follows from a monetary policy that intends to prove that the American economy is flourishing (even if only for perhaps, generously, 10% of the population) will make whatever money middle class folks still have seem like much less.

Then the wealthy will observe and report what happens on this very popular TV show.

This show will be a sort of mashup between Survivor and Thunderdome.

It will turn the middle class into entertainment for the wealthy. Even the middle class will watch with horrified fascination when some other middle class family (not theirs) is in the headlights.

The show could be called “Culling the Herd” but that title does not test as well as the one we have chosen.

Our new goal is to find a way to produce this reality show internationally, especially in some of the countries where problems with overpopulation threaten the quality of life on the planet and our enjoyment of all our wealth.

Having our planet all to ourselves will be if gift we give ourselves for being so successful.

 

 

Koch Brothers and Putin – Venn Diagrams

Venn Diagrams

Multiple Choice

 

What do the Koch brothers feel about Putin?

 

A.

B.

 

 

C.

 

D.

 

 

E.

 

 

 

 

Which diagram best expresses the relationships between these 4 political entities?

 

Your answer__________

 

Explanation for your answer (if you wish):