Crisis Management By Ideology

From a Google Image Search – The Hill

Crisis Management By Ideology

The Dems want to bail out citizens who can’t work during this pandemic because their employers have had to close down. They can’t pay mortgages or rent, utilities, college loans, buy groceries and medicines. The way things are set up, if you can’t pay you can’t stay, and you end up in bankruptcy. Small businesses face the same problems on a slightly larger scale and if they can’t reopen then the downstream repercussions will be dire. We are a consumer economy. If no one consumes the economy dies. 

Dems say start at the bottom and take care of everyone and maybe not worry so much about the people at the top who have been bailed out and had tax cuts and have banked some really enormous profits. (Except they didn’t bank their profits, what they did was stock buy backs – and now they want more bail-out money.) Dems say rescue everyone, even those who are the poorest people – no means testing. Just flood the bottom with money, both citizens and small business, because money may not trickle down, but a depressed economy can definitely rise from the bottom up. 

Yes there are progressive Dems. We’re in the middle of an election. Republicans do not have a progressive bone in their bodies, even dispossessed Republicans who currently have no party. Giving people money means that a Democratic ideology gets a positive vote in Congress. And that goes against everything Republicans believe. They have almost achieved their small government goals. They were ready to cut the safety net the way a winning basketball team gets to cut down the net from the backboard. They have insisted that the coronavirus should be managed in the states, by the states and for the states. They are already having to back off on this policy because the needs are too great for the states to handle without federal help. And now they want Republicans to give away money to hoi polloi which, to them, is like throwing it into a waste basket. They just cannot understand that supporting the economy from the bottom up could help give it a jump start when we are done with social distancing.

There is little taste for rescuing rich folks once again. They have not exactly showered their good fortunes down on the rest of us and if there was a trickle it was so tiny as to be untraceable. The Republicans also want carte blanche over who they will rescue. They want the Treasury Department to be able to disperse the funds as they wish. This is something the Dems can’t swallow having already watched companies spend their windfalls on buying back their own stock and lavishing the dividends of their good fortune on stockholders rather than workers. They were able to ramp up production and hire back workers but this is not actually trickle down as salaries rose very little, although it certainly benefited all of us as good economies always do.

It comes down to the “spendthrift” habits of the Democrats who think a good economy must take care of everyone, not just CEO’s, those progressive socialists as the Republicans like to label them. If Democrats are such spendthrifts then why does the deficit go down when Democrats are in charge? Check it out. Historically that has been true. 

Republicans feel that those on the bottom need to struggle more, that this will inspire them to rise, although it is easy to see that this policy is far more likely to cause despair and depression. Republicans have been implementing their ideology of small government, give power back to the states, but some states are so poor that we will have to rescue them from the novel coronavirus or we will all drown in grief. How is Republican small government working? It ended that Pandemic Program (that got folded into another program) and could not function at all when most needed. The Republican ideology is what we are experiencing right now and it is failing miserably. Yet Republicans refuse to pass a stimulus that addresses the needs of both the top and the bottom because it is against their deeply flawed ideology. 

But the face of this pandemic, the people who own it on TV every day, are the Republicans. If Republican Senators do to American once again what you are planning to do, insist on only helping those who are wealthy I swear you will lose the 2020 election so badly that your party may not recover for decades. Most Americans know nothing about ideology and they will not care if your stimulus does not stand up to your conservative purity tests. If it works you will be heroes. As a Democrat, if it wouldn’t have such dire consequences for America, I would be happy to watch Republicans go down in flames. But as a human being I have to argue for what is right, which is neither progressive nor conservative, but somewhere in the middle. We so need to see the back of Mitch McConnell.

The president also has an ideology. It is money. It is the economy. It is the stock market. The president thinks that in 15 days America will be restored to normality, I guess by royal decree. Fate does seem to favor Trump and perhaps, once again, the universe will comply with his edicts. I would love this to be over in fifteen days. The only thing I would hate about it is that our resident egomaniac would claim it a personal victory. And he would get his heart’s desire (why is it his heart’s desire) to be reelected in 2020. To try to unravel a pandemic in the midst of an election in a divided America puts us all at risk because those who are supposed to represent us have their intellect clouded by their ideology, which prevents rational, reasoned, targeted action, and literally kills Americans and possibly the American economy. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/23/gop-just-smuggled-another-awful-provision-into-big-stimulus-bill/

What Coronavirus Teaches US

From a Google Image Search – Miami University

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is teaching us some lessons that have nothing to do with health and, at the same time, everything to do with health, and survival, and how we may have to conduct our lives on Planet Earth. I believe we can say that the lines that separate nations on our maps are not barriers to some invaders, like diseases, viruses, toxins perhaps. Particles that move through the air have no boundaries. They know nothing of nations, barricades, or even walls. Even biosphere-style bubbles with filtered air might not do the trick. 

So I think that what we see happening with COVID-19 incontrovertibly contradicts Trump’s America First view of the world. Clearly it is impossible to see the world as anything other than global. Everything is interconnected. Someone eats a rare animal in China and now we are all deep in the midst of a pandemic. This disease does not seem to affect the young and the healthy very seriously. It affects those who have health problems, weak immune systems, or all of the above especially in seniors who are most at risk. So this might just be a “cull the herd” virus, not the apocalyptic virus it could have been. Yet. But with 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, apocalypse does not seem far away and many have already intimated that a pandemic might be the cause.

We need to think about the earth the way eagles do, the way even ordinary birds do, not as separate nations but, for the sake of order and safety, as one unit – land, water and air – all one continuous geographical unit, therefore requiring global oversight of some kind. This does not have to signal the end of nations and separate governments. We just obviously need more global cooperation and less global competition. From here on out we all rise together or we all fall together. But we will not heed this warning. We will not take this opportunity to tackle global issues globally. Humans know how to cooperate, as we can see people doing right now in trying to lessen the effects of this virus. But we are also ambitious and we are set up to celebrate individual successes; we like power and autonomy, and we can work in teams but it requires an entire library of books to help us learn how to do it successfully. Even with survival at stake, unless disaster is barreling at us in the tangible form of a tiny bug or a giant asteroid, the threat is too abstract to inspire us to coalesce. 

Another lesson that this virus is teaching us is that societies must be healthy in more than one way. Our 45, always focuses on the economy, on money, on keeping wealthy people happy so that they will fund American hegemony and keep people employed. Only employed people matter. If you have mental issues or physical issues which prevent you from finding employment some Americans seem to believe that you are just faking your disabilities; with proper training you could find some kind of job. 

After I retired I worked for several years in a temp job with a blind woman. She had been born blind and had trouble perceiving spatial relationships. A job had to be specially designed and matched to her skills. Since the job was very visual, an auditory and braille approach had to be devised. When the company changed procedures, this woman lost her job because designing a whole new system she could participate in was too difficult. Not everyone can work. And of course there are people who would do anything to avoid a 9-5 job. 

But Trump and the Republicans do not believe in giving away money, even if depriving our poorest citizens will doom those of us who work to infections and viruses. Democrats and Republicans designed a bipartisan bill to help some hourly employees, employees at small businesses and others who will not be able to survive with our businesses all closed down, but some Republicans are already requiring limitations on who can receive help and who won’t qualify. This means that we will not lift up those who need help the most because Mitch McConnell has determined that they do not deserve it. He cannot get it through his senile brain that we are all interconnected; that the fate of people who work rests on what happens to the poorest among us. This virus shows us why conservative economics is nonsense. This virus shows us that with so many people on the earth focusing only on one area of a society does not constitute adequate governance. 

Trump worries about the stock market and tries to get the Fed of adjust something that can only be adjusted by tackling the real problem, the fallout from a pandemic, which is in no way contained to just the health care industry, but is affecting every aspect our society. This lesson is that not only is Social Darwinism mean, and not only will the poor be affected, but social benefits offer advantages to the wealthy as well as the poor. We are all interconnected.

We are also learning that small government is a bunch of hooey. How are we doing in a pandemic with reluctant federal leadership and each state calling the shots for what happens within its own boundaries? Part of this is due to a President who cannot accept that anything might be beyond his control, who tried to spin the facts he was hearing from his medical advisors, tried to spin the virus right out of existence. And why did he spin it? Apparently the virus only bothered him because it was tanking the stock market. He could not imagine that taking care of everyone’s health could be the only way to shore up the markets. 

When Trump speaks to the nation lately it is as if he has been possessed by an alien, like the one in Independence Day who takes control over the Professor’s vocal chords. Governors are leading, but not all governors are created equal and not all states have equal access to resources. In this health crisis we are seeing why small government does not function well when populations are large. We rely on our federal government for stability and calm and intelligent solutions at all times, but especially in times of crisis. We are not even close to having that. So pass that financial package without any limitations and be prepared to write an even better one soon. America is taking a long break from consumerism. What will that teach us? 

A Case of the Sads – for Elizabeth Warren

From a Google Image Search – Shondaland.com

My best friend’s daughter is now a med student, but she could teach us all how to stay in touch with our emotions. When she’s happy, she is ‘over the moon’, sometimes all she shares on social media is one word ‘sads.’ 

Well that is my word for today, I have a case of the ‘sads.’ I was quietly, in my heart of hearts, rooting for Elizabeth Warren. She touched on the exact policies that would offer broad support to the American middle class. She was progressive enough without being ideological about it. My big sprawling family could have benefited from every one of the things she had a plan for. Even if they were past the need for child care, their children were almost grown and would soon find child care that didn’t cost half their salary highly beneficial. Those same children are even closer to finishing high school and going off to college. We are not a wealthy family. To see their children launched into good careers without massive college debts would be an enormous relief. Many family members are in the Medicare donut hole and have to shell out big bucks to cover the places their medical insurance refuses to go. Having really affordable health care would wipe some of those worry lines off their foreheads. Why should some seniors have to pay $300+ to have their Shingles shots while others pay nothing. 

But I read the Washington Post every day. I read the New York Times every day. I could see that no woman was going to be good enough for the commentators and pundits in 2020. In fact, it became pretty clear that opinions were dead against any progressive winning the Democratic nomination. The Democratic Party is being steered by Republicans who have lost their party. They are in limbo. They cannot stomach a Republican Party led by Trump, but they are not now and never will be Democrats. They have been very active. They write opinion columns; they write books. I am speaking of people like David Frum, George Will, David Brooks and other well-known conservatives who are rogue pool balls now loose on the table and still trying desperately to bring back their brand of intellectual conservatism and Christian morality. There are people like Jennifer Rubin and Nicole Wallace who have become supposedly more passionate Democrats than the actual Democrats. And then there are the moderate Democrats like David Leonhardt who heads the opinion staff at the NYT. All of these people have argued over and over again, in articles and interviews that no progressive can beat Donald Trump; that no woman can beat Trump. It’s hard to tell if the people arrived at this same view independent of the press, or because it is repeated so often, and not always by men. 

Elizabeth Warren, to me, seemed as perfect a presidential candidate as it is possible for a human being to be. Not too old, not too ideological, capable of flexibility, with a warmth that has been very much missed in our recent governance, and with a mission to make sure that millionaires and billionaires would benefit from parting with tiny percentages of their wealth (which they will not even miss) to help America become a nation that is once again thriving and growing, where citizens feel valued and happy because there is hope that their children will also have good lives lived in good health. This would be an America where people could look forward to a comfortable retirement ahead, would know that there will be a rest from their labors. 

Why don’t we want that? Why would we pick any of the old men in this race who seem far gloomier, or far more confused, than the chipper and energetic Warren. But we have been schooled that this is what we must do because one goal is more important than all the others. We must not elect Donald Trump for four more years. We all agree that this is our most significant goal in 2020 and that sacrifices of personal preference must be made to make it so. We have thrown in our lot with the moderate Democrats and the party-less anti-Trumpers because we believe that they are most likely correct. As a woman it almost feels that we are knuckling under once again to the males who dominate our politics, but even so we are pitching in with the majority for a necessary cause and that is what women do.

So here I am saying goodbye once again to the idea of having a woman as the American President and admitting once again that I have backed the wrong horse in this race, although I always knew it would turn out this way. I soothe myself by listing the number of strong women who were in this race. Women will keep running, I feel sure. It is especially poignant to bid farewell to the last viable female candidate in Women’s History month, with all the sweet news coverage of the ‘pinkie swears’ Elizabeth made with young girls all over America. The stories speak of how she is disappointed that she cannot keep those promises right now. Did she create a little subset of girls who will grow up with big ambitions. That would be a nice legacy. And so Elizabeth, Amy, Kamala, Tulsi (not out but not winning), and Marianne farewell for now. We are good at waiting for those ‘historical’ women’s moments to arrive.

Sarah Longwell writing in the NYT on March 9 th offered some backup for the idea that ‘never Trump’ Republicans will vote for a moderate like Joe Biden but will not vote for a Democratic Socialist.

Losing Our Republic

From a Google Image Search – Take Back Our Republic

Democracy will die slowly. We still feel relatively free and that illusion will persist day after day until one day the illusion will evaporate into a dismal reality. Our Republic is dying and it will one day dawn on Americans that they have lost something very great. They have lost a limb, a lung, a heart, a leg. 

We are losing our freedom to speak everyday but in such a freaky way, such a 1984-doublespeak way, that it continues to seem that we can still say what we wish. But the truth is that regardless of what truth we think we are expressing, someone holds a different truth ‘to be self-evident’. If all speech is cancelled out by another’s speech, there actually is no free speech, just babbling. Government doesn’t have to use muscle to shut down a newspaper.  It doesn’t have to turn off news channels that defy it. We will kill our own media by starving it. One of the cornerstones of a dictatorship (or a monarchy) will have been accomplished without giving those who have lost something any one key event to point to as the exact moment when the freedom to speak was trumped by the fact that there is no longer any such thing as a lie. Twisting our brains into thought pretzels, gaslighting, playing games with logic, these are the tricks that nullify free speech.

Speech is so key to a democracy that losing this right will basically mean that our founders tried but did not protect us well enough. Even as the ability to make a cogent argument that will resonate disappears our Second Amendment rights to carry a gun expand. It is fairly easy to see that the cocksure and primed-for-violence GOP base might have difficulty sticking to using words, however killer their name-calling might be, and decide that a few people need their brains blown out. Trump’s base are far better at activism than the rest of us are. They are absolutely loyal and cannot be swayed by any logic at all. The rest of us are wrong and that is that. These people feel that they have always been the straightest and truest Americans and they have been shafted (although most of them are quite comfortably middle class) and Donald is their deliverer. They fight so viciously for their absolute right to own any and every gun they wish to own and there is a frightening edge to their insistence. If anyone could be pushed over the edge it is those who Trump has empowered, however unreal that power actually is. They are empowered to herd the rest of us into camps or split the nation into factions and those of us who are not Trumpers, it seems, will just look on in astonishment because we are not yet radical enough to feel like an avenging army – and setting our government back to rights will be misinterpreted as a liberal takeover of America.

Trump’s base, by enabling an all-powerful Chief Executive, are actually destroying the very freedoms they think they are defending. They accuse those of us who cannot pledge our loyalty to Trump of being the ones who are corrupt and they honestly believe that all people are so tainted that our government is irredeemable. They do not realize that they have been turned into instruments of the corporations and the wealthy. They were betrayed by their corporatist overlords and yet they defend Capitalism as the all-American institution that saves them from (horror of horrors) socialism or communism. Since socialism and communism have now been defined as using any tax dollars on social programs or benefits, the capitalists have achieved their main end of turning Americans loose to sink or swim in a transitional age, which many are unequipped to stay afloat in. Small government means that the corporations have totally won; we will subsidize businesses that no longer feel they hold any stake in America because their families live elsewhere. Trumpers believe they are treasured by their tainted leader; they are actually the tools of their own destruction.

When we emerged (were ejected) from the Industrial Age we lost our footing. The world became less predictable, less comprehensible. The belief that if you took care of your employer they would take care of you disappeared, poof, when manufacturing moved South and then basically out of America. The information age is too abstract to offer stability for the entire nation. Stuff happens in clouds, for heaven’s sake. Most of us are not prepared to see what happens in the digital world as real. It is all toys, games, virtual reality. Most of us cannot make a living in this digital world. We are set adrift. Education becomes the key to holding a good job. And yet educated people are denigrated. If you don’t know and understand a technology that requires certain engineering types of skills you are limited to service jobs – long hours with low pay, or having to have several ‘gigs’ to make ends meet. Since you are not a billionaire you have no importance in the world that you find yourself in. Jobs in alternative energies could provide the kinds of jobs people used to seek, jobs that offer stability, but those corporations do not see a way to make their profits without continuing to use fossil fuels. So our Trumpers fight for fossil fuels and they do not accept that alternative energies might give them back their footing, take them out of the clouds and ground them again. Oddly enough, speaking of being grounded, if space travel were to become a viable field for business, good jobs along the whole spectrum from physical to mental would multiply and “ground” us once again.

It just does not look like our American democracy/republic will survive this unsettling transitional age as we flounder about to save our planet from overpopulation, from climate change, from social and political uncertainty. We are in the midst of a massive anxiety attack which may turn out to be overblown, but could also be totally justified by what is going on around us. Some of us want a father figure, a tough-love father figure, who insists that he will use economic prosperity and geographic isolation, the importation of geniuses, and the end of social support systems to keep America, if not the American people, afloat. Our Trumpers, our beloved sisters, brothers, neighbors do not realize that idolizing one man, turning him into your savior, is the way you lose everything. Now we will not only have lost our lifestyle security, we will have lost our national security. We will be subjects, serfs, and I can even foresee a day that anyone who cannot be productive will be expendable. But I cannot convince those who disagree that this is where we are headed.

Do Numbers Count? Russia/Ukraine/Trump

From a Google image Search – New York Post

Do Numbers Count?

We did not have, until now, any way to connect our president, Donald J Trump to any actual criminal conduct in either Russia or Ukraine. We had no concrete proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. The House of Representatives would not have voted to hold a formal impeachment inquiry without considerable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. Many Americans have seen the president’s disregard for our constitution, our traditions, and our system of checks and balances as worrisome. Books have been written on the subject, like How Democracy Dies by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. No matter how many times the Republicans say this is all about overturning the 2016 election, there are plenty of Americans who know this is not the case.

But I have to ask, do numbers count? Even without proof that Trump had actually done anything unconstitutional or unlawful the number of connections between Trump’s campaign staff and Russia and Ukraine during the 2016 campaign and immediately after the inauguration, the number of Trump references to Russia, and his interactions with both Russia and Ukraine are extraordinary. America does not usually have a lot of business in this part of the world, the part that was in a Cold War with us, that isolated itself behind an Iron Curtain. It could all be about business, but talk of getting rid of the sanctions on Russia is definitely about politics. 

In fact Russia is in the process of invading eastern Ukraine in an attempt to annex (steal) several Ukrainian oblasts (provinces). Still Ukraine has many connections to Moscow and all this activity by Trump’s guys may have been, in part, an attempt to open a back door into Putin’s Russia. Although many attempts were made by many “friends” of Trump to open such a back door, there is no proof that any of these attempts actually succeeded. Perhaps this explains Trump’s continued hyper-interest in Ukraine.  An article in today’s Washington Post suggests that Trump has actual animosity towards Ukraine. Or perhaps Trump has no faith that he can win an election without cheating.

As we approach the 2020 election we again begin to hear more and more references to Russia and those sanctions and to Ukraine right up to the moment of the now famous phone call. (As I write this Jonathan Capehart is reading aloud the transcript of this Ukraine/Trump phone call in front of a crackling TV fire a lá Franklin Roosevelt thus beating Trump to it). You would think with all the hair-on-fire reactions to Trump’s coziness with Putin and Russia and his campaign staff’s many illegal financial ops in Ukraine that Trump would have stayed far away from Ukraine in the run up to this elections. 

But it seems that once he gets a bee in his bonnet he cannot let it go and the current bee in his bonnet is a whole hive. Biden and his son Hunter are bees buzzing around in Trump’s brain because he likes to have plenty of dirt on potential political opponents so he can effectively demonize them. Then he is still after Hillary and still trying to help out his whatever, Putin, by pursuing a discredited theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in our 2016 election thus getting Putin off the hook and closer to seeing those sanctions go away. Why an American president is so obsessed with Putin, and other dictators and why Americans are traipsing all over Kiev in Ukraine are questions we want to know the answers to.

Here are names connected with Trump and with Ukraine: then and now:

Then: Mueller investigation

Leshchenko, a Ukrainian legislator fighting corruption. He exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s party to Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chair

Michael T Flynn – resigned as national security advisor – 1 week earlier a sealed proposal was delivered to his office, outlining a way for Trump to lift sanctions on Russia.

Felix Sater – a business associate who helped Trump seal deals in Russia

Michael Cohen – president’s personal lawyer who delivered the sealed proposal to Michael Flynn. Michael Cohen is married to a Ukrainian woman and tried to help relatives start an ethanol business there so he, at least, had legitimate business in Ukraine. He delivered the sealed proposal which suggested a way to bring peace between Russia and Ukraine, (this was written by a Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko trying to rise in the political opposition movement in Ukraine with the help of Paul Manafort). This proposal was not sanctioned by the government of Ukraine.

It was thought that Trump possibly wanted to end Russian sanctions and wanted to create a back channel to Moscow through Ukraine.

[As I make this list Rachel  Maddow is talking about a new article by David Ignatius which says president Poroshenko of Ukraine was trying to get a meeting in the oval with the newly installed president Trump. He wasn’t getting anywhere until Giuliani went to Ukraine. Magically, after this visit in 2017, Ukraine stopped an investigation into Paul Manafort and then Poroshenko got his meeting with Trump and his javelin missiles.

Rachel asks, was this a rehearsal for what Trump did recently? Was this a quid pro quo he got away with which emboldened Trump to try again. There have been references to the Black ledger case. This ledger included the name of Paul Manafort and the huge sum he had been paid, but after the “bargain” with Poroshenko the Black Ledger disappeared – poof.]

Back to my list:

Rick Gates – a Trump campaign aide was Manafort’s longtime junior business partner.

Alex Vander Zwaan – London lawyer, had contacts with Rick Gates and another unnamed person based in Ukraine.

Konstantin Kilimnik , Russian/Ukrainian– a longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates.

Sam Patten – Republican operative and lobbyist – pleaded guilty because he was not registered as a foreign agent for his work with “Ukrainian bigwigs”

During the Mueller investigation we learned the following from reporters who investigated the people called in to testify:

“Donald J. Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition, according to a New York Times analysis.”

and, in case you are not a New York Times fan,

“There are now more than 101 known points of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian-government linked people or entities, including 23 meetings or calls.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-campaign-russia-government-contact-timeline-2018-7

Now: Impeachment inquiry

Rudy Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (these two have been indicted for campaign finance violations.) Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine on behalf of the president were happening long before the fateful phone call.

“The three amigos” all were busy in Ukraine pushing Trump’s agenda:

Rick Perry was the Head of Energy Department–  after being called to testify before the impeachment inquiry he quit his cabinet position

Kurt Volker – US Special Representative to Ukraine

Gordon Sondland – US ambassador to EU

Bill Taylor – US chargé d’affairs in Ukraine who questioned holding up military aid in exchange for “oppo” information for the 2020 election

Ukrainian oligarch – Dmytro Firtash has been mentioned in connection with these events. There is a current attempt to bring him to America to testify.

Three Ukrainian Presidents involved because each had involvement with Americans connected to Trump:

Petro Poroshenko

Viktor Yanukovych (former president – said to be “stooge of Putin”)

Zelensky – current president of Ukraine

Viktor Shokin – Prosecutor General in Ukraine – forced out for blocking prosecution of corrupt officials and oligarchs

Lutsenko – new prosecutor general – also at war with anti-corruption group backed by 

Serhiy Leshchenko – a liberal legislator and journalist who fights corruption

Marie Yovanovitch – US Ambassador to Ukraine recently relieved of her duties for no apparent reason. – She said the new prosecutor was still blocking corruption probes.

Conspiracy theory – Lutsenko said that George Soros was involved with Biden and Hunter Biden. He said that Yovanovitch gave him a list of people not to prosecute, which she says did not happen.

When did we ever spend this much time and energy and have this many Americans who were not spies interacting with Russians and Ukrainians and bugging Ukrainian presidents? (Right now on my TV Louie Gomert – (Rep.) is threatening Civil War if Democrats impeach Trump, which makes me nervous because Democrats are not the ones who have been stockpiling guns. Don’t they sound a bit desperate?) (Michael Steele (who has distanced himself from the Republican Party, asks, would we really have a Civil War over this man, over Trump, really?) This Russia-Ukraine-Impeachment is obviously incendiary. 

Ukraine is known to be a very corrupt country, which means that the government protects oligarchs who basically steal from the Ukrainian people and the treasury like a bunch of crooks. Trump seems to many of us to be our most corrupt president ever, perhaps because he is  so crude and so blatant about it. Is this simply a case of crooks of a feather flock together? Except this is like a flock of crows that wants to pick our government clean and leave it as road kill. This amount of interaction with a nation which governs by fear and intimidation, a nation with a system of government we have fought against (Vietnam, Korea) losing the lives of our young men and women, should be problematic to all Americans. Why isn’t it? 

And Ukraine is fighting for survival right now, both survival from corrupt and selfish men, and in an actual military operation to repel Russia from its threatening position within its borders. Despite Ukraine’s internal struggles we find Trump’s “troops” all over Ukraine selfishly “phishing” for Trump’s dirt on an opponent to “fix” the 2020 election (and possibly end those sanctions on Russia by blaming election interference in 2016 on Ukraine, not Russia). Since when have we been so cavalier about a nation so at risk. Given all of this it is not really out of line to hope that Trump gets stung by one or more of those bees he can’t seem to get out of this bonnet.

After I posted this article two more interesting reads came up in online news media:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrii-telizhenko-source-for-ukraine-collusion-allegations-met-rep-devin-nunes

Michelle Goldberg’s article explaining more Ukraine complexities.

Bop Bag Politics

clown bop bag amazon.com

Our president is basically a human bop bag. If he gets knocked down he pretends it is due to his magnanimity as a leader (an emotion he does not possess) and then he just pops back up. This bop bag toy works as a symbol for a lot of politicians; but it may just be the quintessential symbol for Donald Trump, not just as a politician but also as a businessman.

Ending the shutdown is a victory for many Americans who spoke up about the everyday repercussions of working without pay; a victory over a president’s empty words about one-sided loyalty. Nancy Pelosi probably never intended to gloat. She used the power of her office, which she understands completely, and the power of the Constitution, to help put an end to the shutdown. The only extraordinary thing about it is the skill with which she wields the gavel. Gloating does not have good outcomes given Trump’s pathologies. He hates losing and will stubbornly hold his ground.

It is entirely possible that Trump only decided to end the shutdown for three weeks so he could give his State of the Union address in the House chambers amidst the pomp and spectacle of regular order, in these times that are anything but regular.

However Trump could have decided to do the authoritarian thing and force his way into the House chambers and he didn’t. Perhaps he realized how quickly opposition might escalate if he used that play from the authoritarian playbook at this particular moment, if he sidelined a Congress that now shows some promise of offering the checks and balances that signal a healthy democracy/republic. Don’t be too comforted; this play is still available for future use.

In the Rose Garden he made a formal announcement of a temporary (3 week end) to the government shutdown but he did not back down at all from his insistence on the necessity for a wall on our southern border.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/prisoner-of-his-own-impulse-inside-trumps-cave-to-end-shutdown-without-wall/2019/01/25/e4a4789a-20d5-11e9-8b59-0a28f2191131_story.html

“Trump’s quest for at least some portion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is not over, however. Friday’s agreement only temporarily reopens the government, providing a three-week period for Congress to negotiate a longer-term spending agreement. The president said he would continue advocating for his signature campaign promise and threatened to again shut down the government or declare a national emergency to use his unilateral powers to build the wall if Congress does not appropriate funding for it by Feb. 15.

‘Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said Friday. He also tweeted in the evening that his decision “was in no way a concession.’”

He does seem, however, to be willing to accept pieces of wall as opposed to sea to sea wall. He also seems willing to accept a steel barrier rather than a monumental medieval concrete wall that can be seen from space. (Although perhaps with his push to get to Mars while he is still President, he will have to leave some kind of monument that will be visible from space.)

So the bop bag we call Donald Trump is now back in the upright position. What will happen next? Will it be some money for barriers and will Nancy Pelosi and her Dem peeps accept a bit of defeat gracefully? Will it be the declaration of a National Emergency, which promises to damage our constitutional democracy “bigly”? Will it be another shutdown after Trump gets to deliver his SOTU address?

What can the president possibly say in his SOTU address that anyone but loyal Republicans will want to listen to? We have not yet reached the point where Americans can be forced to watch the address. Someone will tell us what he said after the fact. If you are a person who sees through this man you will probably have to tune out the SOTU address to save your TV from mayhem. Perhaps you could order a bop bag to take your frustrations out on. Remember also that a bop bag can be put down permanently; all you have to do is take the hot air out of it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – amazon.com

How Democracies Die by Levitsky and Ziblatt – Book

 

How democracies die big Chicago Humanities FestivalSteven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote How Democracies Die. They were challenged to complete this book project by their agent Jill Kneerim. They did so with help from their student research assistants who are listed in the acknowledgments. It is a book that tries to analyze how much danger we are in of losing our democracy at this current moment in time. It begins with a story about Benito Mussolini and ends with references to the goings-on in the Trump/Republican administration, the 2016 primaries, and in the campaign of 2016. In the middle the authors look at a number of “political outsiders” who “came into power from the inside via elections or alliances with powerful political figures.” They take us through the rise of Adolf Hitler, Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, Alberto Fujimori in Peru and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. They say, “in each instance, elites believed the invitation to power would containthe outsider, leading to a restoration of control by mainstream politicians. But their plans backfired. A lethal mix of ambition, fear, and miscalculation conspired to lead them to the same fateful mistake: willingly handing over the keys of power to an autocrat-in-the-making.”

Although the authors remind us that America has had no shortage of authoritarian personalities in politics we also, they explain, have had “gatekeepers”, first in the form of powerful men in smoke-filled rooms and later in the form of political parties, conventions and the electoral college which kept authoritarianism in check, possibly with the sacrifice of some of the “will of the people”. They go on to explain that the primary system opened elections up to “outsiders” who had not come up from the ranks of government. Two factors weakened the gatekeepers, one being the availability of outside money (Citizen’s United) and two being the “explosion of alternative media”. “It was like a game of Russian roulette: The chances of an extremist outsider capturing the presidential nomination were higher than ever before in history.”

There were signs as early as the primaries that Trump might represent dangers for our democratic government.

  1. He would not say whether he would accept the results of the election
  2. He denied the legitimacy of his opponents
  3. He show a tolerance for and encouragement of violence
  4. He exhibited a readiness to curtail civil liberties of rivals and critics

The authors tell us that “No other major presidential candidate in modern U.S. history, including Nixon, has demonstrated such a weak public commitment to constitutional rights and democratic norms.” They offer evidence for each point they make. They also say that Republicans closed ranks behind Trump and normalized the election results.

Throughout their interesting and well-researched book we are shown examples of instances when outsiders have gradually and, sometimes, almost invisibly, sometimes rather violently taken the reins of power from the “referees” such as the courts, or the congresses of government, bought off their opponents, subverted the media, and have ended up with absolute control, thus ending a democracy. We can see where the authors are headed. They want to warn us that our democracy also could die such a death, just sliding into authoritarianism one baby step at a time. Here we look at Erdogan in Turkey and the Orbán government in Hungary and many more.

“Even well-designed constitutions cannot, by themselves, guarantee democracy,” say the authors. Successful democracies rely on informal rules, they add. “Two norms stand out as fundamental to a functioning democracy: mutual toleration and institutional forbearance.” The rest of the book shows us how these two norms are no longer functioning or are being eroded. In the end they explore our possible futures under Trump, but even if he is not the one who destroys our democracy it seems as if it has never been more threatened and it is good time to have a blueprint of what cues we should look for. Knowing when to put on the brakes or when the brakes will no longer functions could be very important either in the near or the more distant future.

Although this book seems scholarly and is constructed according to academic principles it is very readable. The language is not at all obscure and the examples of other nations who have lost their democratic government to a dictatorial government are interesting with easy-to-draw parallels. How Democracies Die should, perhaps, be required reading given where we find ourselves right now in America. It is the very best kind of thriller, the real kind.