Trump’s love affairs

Relax; nothing salacious ahead. This is not going to be about Trump’s bachelor days when he was a swinging man about town in New York. Nor, is there any intent on rehashing his cheating on first wife Ivana, or on his second wife, Marla. No; this is about candidate and then president Donald J. Trump’s love affairs with some of the worst people in the world, with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the top of the list.

If, during the past two years, you’ve been even marginally in touch with the news, you are aware that candidate and president DJT, just can’t bring himself to utter an unkind word about the likes of Philippine President Duterte, North Korea’s Kim Jon Un, and Syria’s Bashir Al Assad. These guys are not just despots. They are the worst kind of tyrant who ruthlessly crush dissent and murder anyone who even hints at questioning their authority.

But beyond these scoundrels, and because of the ongoing investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, special attention will be focused here on the “bromance” between Trump as candidate and president, and Putin.

It would be highly instructive if a news organization collected and spliced end-to-end, all of the generous comments about Vlady that have fallen from Trump’s lips as he campaigned for our presidency and after he won it. Putin is “a strong leader” (never mind that he is a murderous thug) is just one example of a litany of bon mots that Trump has bestowed upon Russia’s leader. The latest of bouquets involved 45 taking Putin’s word when the latter asserted that he and Russia had not meddled in our last election, contrary to the firm conclusion of all 17 of our Intelligence agencies.

This pattern of behavior (and it surely is a pattern) has been excused by Trump apologists as their man being “crazy like a fox” and “playing” the opposition. In sharp contrast, there are the opinions of some notable mental health professionals (1) who consider Trump’s pattern as “crazy as in crazy”; and a specific kind of crazy at that, a topic we turn to next.

It is striking that Trump has such a fondness for authoritarian figures; he admires them, extols their dominance, skipping over their ruling with an iron fist and ability to murder their own countrymen without remorse. It is hard to escape the very real possibility that these monsters are his role models, not Lincoln or current day Republican icon, Ronald Reagan.

If 45 seeks to run the US as an authoritarian president, what has he done toward that end? Simply put, for the past year, he has chipped away at the foundations of our nation; the very pillars that have sustained us for going on 250 years:  He denigrated Federal Judge Curiel and the district courts that set aside his Muslim travel ban. He viciously attacks the free press as hopelessly biased and purveyors of “fake news”, and lambasts members of his own party when they fail to help him fulfill one or another campaign promise. Not bad enough? Look at what he is doing to key government agencies like the EPA and Energy wherein he has installed as department heads, men like Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry who are intent on sabotaging the very organizations they have been appointed to head. Both are climate change deniers and shills for “big Oil” who have scant interest in the quality of the air that we breathe and the water we drink.

In the last analysis, Trump’s “Make America great again” should more properly be re-written to read “Make America different”. How “different”? Look to the countries whose leaders 45 can’t manage a bad word about.

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  1. Twenty-seven mental health experts have lent their expertise to filling the pages of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Bandy X. Lee; St. Martin’s Press, 2017. This book is available in hard cover and Kindle.

 

 

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Why?

Just two days ago (11-5-17) A group of NBC News reporters filed a story titled “Mueller Has Enough Evidence to Bring Charges in Flynn Investigation”. While an attention-grabber in its’ own right, this announcement was not accompanied by the charges themselves, or followed up two days later by a filing of them. This begs the question “Why? What is Mueller waiting for?” In what follows, we’ll examine three possible explanations for this apparent delay.

Paperwork

Even someone with Mueller’s authority can’t just walk into court and file charges. The filing must be preceded by the submission of all sorts of documentation, including its’ evidentiary basis. So, it is possible that Mueller is simply dotting all his “i’s”, crossing all his “t’s” and getting his “ducks” in order.

Timing for maximum effect

Perhaps Mueller is holding back so as to coordinate his filing with some other related event that will arise out of his ongoing investigation; e.g. the near-completion of the building of a case against Flynn’s son so that both could be charged together.

“Enough” may not mean “all”

When the NBC team broke the story that Mueller had “enough” evidence to bring charges, they may have spoken only on the basis of an incomplete set of facts. This raises the possibility that the Flynn investigation remains open, and that when Mueller does file, it will be with more than enough evidence to do so. Put another way, the Special Prosecutor may be going for overkill and thus, the maximum of significant jail time in order to get Flynn to “flip”. Remember, months ago, it was Flynn’s lawyer who sought immunity for his client, saying that the ex-Trump Cabinet member “has a story to tell”.

End note

There is no question that each one of these three scenarios is speculative. But, the bet here is that one of them will prove to be true. Pick your favorite and let’s see what materializes.

 

Known and yet to be discovered

In the Trump/Russia investigation, there are some things that we now know with near or complete certainty. It’s a  short list so let’s run these facts down.

Russian interference

There is now no question that Russian “actors” made a concerted effort to meddle in our election, Trump’s denials notwithstanding. This gambit was so widespread and organized that it can properly be viewed as a cyber-attack on us by a foreign nation. These efforts included ad buys and postings that showed up with alarming frequency in popular social interactive platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The impact of Russian interference

All one has to do is look at the numbers of “likes” on Facebook, and re-tweets on Twitter that were collected by the Russian-sponsored ad buys and posts. At the least, these numbers indicate that social media users were paying attention. Even more telling is the fact that Russian ads announcing anti-Clinton rallies motivated people to attend as they did. What we will never know is how many votes were impacted by these meddling activities. Did they change or solidify votes? That question will never be answered.

Collusion

All denials to the contrary, it has been established that multiple people in Trump’s orbit colluded with various individuals in and outside the Russian government. That said, this is where a caveat is desperately needed:  There is no law against colluding with another party since all that means is that two or more parties met for some reason. Simply put, the word “collusion” denotes nothing benign or negative (1). What matters is what transpires between the parties that colluded. It could be something very innocent, even positive, like the negotiating of a peace treaty. Or, it could be something nefarious like A and B cooking up a scheme to launder money, evade taxes, or illegally distort the outcome of an election. In these latter examples, collusion becomes conspiracy which is most assuredly against the law. All this said, we now know as matters of fact, that Manafort, Papadopolous, Kushner, Trump, Jr., Page and Sessions all colluded with one or another Russian.

Yet to be discovered

Did the collusion cited immediately above cross the line into conspiracy? That is precisely what Special Prosecutor Mueller is investigating, among other potential crimes. Also to be discovered is whether or not any illegal and/or conspiratorial behavior involved 45’s inner circle and even reached all the way into the Oval Office and tainted his presidency to the point where impeachment becomes a realistic possibility? To date, Mueller’s findings do not take us to that level (2), but it would be foolish to deny that is where he and we are headed. Will we end up there? Place your bets !!

End note

The intent here has been to produce an objective, fact-based accounting of what we can accept as fact and what remains to be learned. Too many people have already rushed to judgment; one side claiming that this investigation is a “witch hunt” and that there is no “there”, there. The other side has already convicted Trump. These polemics should be avoided in the interest of a patient, sober search for the truth. When we arrive there, let the chips fall where they may.

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  1. Because of the highly charged emotional atmosphere surrounding the Mueller investigation, the word “collusion” has too often been misrepresented as signifying conspiracy. Given what is now known, that is unjustified.
  2. The indictments of Manafort and his associate Gates, indicate that these two men engaged in conspiratorial behavior. But we have yet to see evidence that their alleged illegality touched Trump and/or the 2016 election.

Bon Appetite: A not-so whimsical spoof

Hopa and welcome to Chez George. I am your maitre d, George Papadopolous and have your table ready. Our gourmand chef Robispierre Mueller has prepared a sumptuous repaste that is sure to caress your palate. Regarde vous:

Appetizer:  Pate’ d foie Manafort..

Soup:  Gates bisque

Salad:  A reduction of mixed leafy vegetables ala Flynn served with Single Island dressing (Hawaii – make only America great again).

Entree’:  Roast suck(l)ing pig to be presented with foot in its mouth.

Dessert:  Pure vanilla, topped with assorted mixed nuts, including Carter Page, Sam Clovis, Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner.

Beverage:  White Russian

Enjoy !!!

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If this blog has left you scratching your head in puzzlement, you are way behind by about six news cycles.

 

 

 

Book Review: “Fantasyland”

Andersen, Kurt; Fantasyland:  How America Went Haywire:  A 500-year History. Random House; 2017 (1).

A book can be entertaining, interesting, insightful, provocative and even disturbing. This book is all of the foregoing. The title itself is an attention-grabber:  note that in Andersen’s view, it’s “America” that has gone “haywire”; not just conservatives or progressives. And what’s this business about  “500-year history” when our country is 230-years old? The answer is that the author has gone back another 270 years into European history to find the roots of what has brought us to our present state of “haywiredness”; i.e. a state of being increasingly consumed by the fantastical, the unreal, the unprovable, and the fact-free.

In assessing European history (see above), the author is careful to stick to the record without embellishment. His thesis is that the narrow, repressive, constricted thinking and speaking that characterized much of Europe during the period in question, gave way to our Founding Fathers’ deep commitment to freedom of expression, and to give it stature and primacy as our First Amendment. All well and good. But, as Andersen points out, freedom of expression is perhaps the sharpest of double-edged swords; it allows for not only the rational, evidence-based and verifiable, but the irrational, fact-free and unprovable. The framers of the Bill of Rights (2) believed that a sensible and informed public would come around to rejecting the latter so they made sure that no law could be enacted to stifle it.

Has that actually happened? In tracing our 230-year history, Anderson shows that the license provided by the First Amendment has found expression in virtually every part of our culture:  public policy, science, psychology, religion, economics, the media, and increasingly, social discourse through the advent of platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

As the author notes, there have been periods when the irrational, fact-free and unprovable gained some traction only to be shunted aside by disproof, rationality, and evidence-based counter-arguments. This has happened over and over again just as the Framers believed would occur.

But, for Andersen, this salutary state of affairs has steadily given way to the embrace by too many of our citizens of the fantastical, unreal and fact-free. It is this trend that has put “America” in “haywire” mode (see definition above). In making this case, the author spares no one; both political parties, conservatives, progressives, and everyone and everything else gets examined and earmarked for their share of accountability. That said, Anderson draws heavily on objective sociological research findings to document how the irrational with little/no basis in reality has taken hold among less well-educated people  who harbor longstanding resentments against government and the press, making them susceptible to investing in conspiracy theories that cannot be subjected to disproof, and public policies that have a documented history of failure. Alarmingly, social scientists have shown that these folks cannot be dislodged from their baseless beliefs because they view any attempts to dissuade them as conspiratorial and invalid, evidence to the contrary be damned.

The foregoing gives you a very general sense of the thrust of “Fantasyland”, but barely scratches the surface of the depth and breadth of Andersen’s scholarship and the scope of the case for “Haywired” that he makes. His book has been well-received and collected over 100, 4- and 5-star ratings. You can count this review among them.

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  1. Available in Kindle version or hard-copy.
  2. James Madison, principally with an assist from Thomas Jefferson.

 

 

 

 

Let’s call this what it is

Prologue

Rewind the “tape” to that time back in 2009 when what came  to be known as Obamacare was being crafted. A key component of that legislation was the “individual mandate” (IM). It applied to two groups of people; i.e. folks who had no health insurance and those who owned “junk” policies that failed to meet criteria for basic coverage. The IM required that those in the first group secure adequate coverage where they previously had none. People in the second group were obliged to upgrade their coverage so that it met agree-upon standards. Anyone who failed to comply had to pay a penalty which was ruled a “tax” in a US Supreme Court 5-4 decision.

Conservative backlash

Conservatives in and out of government reacted to the IM with fury; i.e. this is “unamerican…citizens are being denied freedom of choice…Obama is acting like a dictator…this is Communism” etc. Claims like the foregoing became a central part of conservatives’ efforts to turn the public against Obamacare and there is little question that it worked:  For a full three years after the passage of this legislation, poll results  consistently ran against it.

Willful ignorance

As a matter of fact, every single one of us who owns a car and drives, has dealt with an IM when it comes to auto insurance. In that regard, there is not a single state that does not require that you have some form of indemnification as an operator of a motor vehicle. Simply put, those of us who drive must have some form of insurance. It may involve a bond or an annual payment to the state government or an actual private policy. But, there are no exceptions!!

How did this longstanding policy from state-to-state get ignored by conservatives as they railed against the IM in Obamacare? The most plausible answer is that it was politically convenient to do so. Knowing that the IM was key to the financial stability of Obamacare, conservatives made the conscious decision to undermine it and thus better insure the failure of President Obama’s most significant legislative achievement. Thus motivated, they elected to ignore the existence of IMs in car insurance, but attack it in Obamacare.

End note

Let’s call this what it is:  rank hypocrisy, sabotage, and the kind of dishonest politics that has convinced voters that our system of government is broken.

 

 

Reality check

Prologue

As leaks out of the White House continue, we are presented with a clearer picture of a man who is “unraveling…feeling isolated… besieged…(and) erratic”. These characterizations have generated serious concerns about Trump’s ability to competently govern, both here at home and internationally. Indeed, these “concerns” have found expression in August poll results, a topic to be addressed next.

A significant plurality

The Public Religious Research Institute (PRRI) conducted its poll during the period that ran from this August 2nd to the 8th. Forty percent (40%) of respondents were in favor of 45 being removed from office by means of impeachment. Two weeks later, Harvard University replicated the PRRI survey and found that essentially the same plurality (i.e. 43%) agreed.

Impeachment

The aforementioned two results have generated among many Americans, an increased sense of urgency; i.e. can’t we get on with the impeachment process before Trump does any more damage to our standing in the world (1) along with his assault on our laws and Constitution (2,3)? The view held here is that for reasons to be cited next, impeachment (if it happens at all) will not occur sooner, but rather, later.

Advancing on square wheels

There are multiple factors that are currently acting or eventually will act to impede the impeachment process. First, key Republican members of Congress like Senator Chuck Grassley  of Iowa, and Representative Devin Nunes of California, are taking steps to slow congressional investigations into Trump/Russia collusion and/or undermine the credibility of various sources of information that have put 45 in a less-than-favorable light.

Second, Special Prosecutor (SP) Robert Mueller is a “stickler” who “dots all his  ‘i’s’ and crosses all his ‘t’s’. Moreover, he is thorough. That means that he will tie up every loose end that is hanging out there, and won’t issue his conclusions until that has been done. It’s a good bet that will take us into next year.

Third, if impeachment is indeed front and center in 2018, but before that year’s November midterm election, watch for the GOP-controlled House to go to great lengths to stall the process until after that election is over. They simply do not want to face boiling mad Trump supporters after having passed bills of impeachment on to the Senate. It has even been argued that they will vote against those same bills unless the case against Trump is overwhelmingly bad and thus leaves them with virtually no other choice.

The other alternative

There is yet another way in which a sitting president can be removed from office:  The Constitution’s 25th Amendment allows for his cabinet to take such action if it is determined that the Chief Executive cannot discharge the duties of his office due to a serious physical (4) or mental/psychological disability.

Interestingly, former presidential advisor, Steve Bannon, is said to have judged that the chances of 45 even finishing his first term are about “30%”, with the 25th Amendment doing used as the mechanism for removing him from office. This prediction, assigned to Bannon by an anonymous source, was cited in a Vanity Fair magazine article and as of today’s date, has yet to be corroborated by other news agencies. Attempts to reach Bannon for confirmation or denial have been met with silence which cannot be interpreted one way or the other.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the alleged quote from Bannon, where would Trump’s cabinet stand viz a viz the invocation of the 25th? Again, the view here, is that  the majority of those 21 people (5), all 45-nominees, would be absolutely loathe to take such action. Trump would have to become completely unhinged, publicly, to make such a vote even thinkable (6).

End Notes

If the basic two projections offered here have any real validity, then those in the anti-Trump camp had better steel themselves for many more months of his presidency; and that’s at the very least. So, “cool your jets”, practice patience and keep up all legitimate forms of protest.

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  1. The leaders of our closest allies have voiced their disapproval over 45’s “war of words” with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
  2. Trump has urged NFL owners to fire players who have chosen to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem. There are labor laws that make it illegal for an employer to fire or punish an employee for the latter’s political views. How sad that 45 exhibited no knowledge of this before speaking.
  3. Assaulting the constitutional guarantee of a free press, 45 has advocated that TV networks have their licenses revoked in retaliation for their negative stories. One can take this as an indication of Trump’s failure to know that the networks are not licensed; only their affiliates are.
  4. When then-President Reagan was wounded during an assassination attempt, there was brief talk of turning to the 25th Amendment. It was quickly scuttled.
  5. Here, the “cabinet” is considered to be populated by all individuals who had to pass through a Senate confirmation hearing. That includes everyone from the Secretary of State down to the Budget Director.
  6. As his presidency was headed towards its’ ignominious end, Nixon was described by close associates as roaming the halls of the White House, talking to pictures of former presidents. That never became part of the official record of Nixon’s departure from office because said behavior took place out of public view.

 

 

 

 

How did we end up like this?

Prologue

High up in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Hotel, Stephen Paddock has arranged an arsenal of high-powered weapons, retro-fitted to be more efficient killing machines. He opens up on an unprotected crowd of about 20,000 music festival attendants even as the GOP-controlled Congress considers legislation that would allow gun owners to buy silencers and the so-called bump-stock device that turns a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic machine-gun like one (1). How did we end up like this, in such a dark, evil place?

History

The answer to that question requires that we go all the way back in our history to a time when we were 13 separate colonies, each one thinking of themselves as an independent nation. This was obviously before Washington et al brought us together, believing that we had a better of chance of surviving if we were united.

Separate and independent, the states wanted to protect themselves against intruders, foreign or domestic. So they formed militias; essentially all-volunteer groups that could take up arms and act as a deterrent against any aggressor.

As the colonies came together to form the United States of America, there was no certainty that this union would hold. Our neophyte nation, with no standing army of its own at that point, needed some means of mounting a resistance. The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights made that possible, extending to all citizens, the “…right to bear arms” within the framework of a “…well-regulated militia”. Here, the phrase “well-regulated” is key because it bespeaks of organization, order, discipline and training.

As best we are able to tell from the early history of the USA, the Second Amendment was embraced with nary a dissenting voice heard. That status quo was to remain in effect until well into the 1900’s. But then, something started to change and it involved a slow but steady departure from the need for a “well-regulated militia”. We were becoming a nation of individual gun owners with no more than lip service to the commitment to a militia or to its regulation.

Sifting through history, it is hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened or what prompted this departure from the Constitution. Maybe it had something to do with the facts that we grew into a strong nation, capable of defending itself with a well-developed, armed military, and thus had no need for well-regulated militias. De facto, that would leave an individual free to bear arms, but now as a matter of defending himself and his/her possessions.

There is no question that domestic gun makers seized on this turn of events and capitalized on it:  The widespread marketing of weapons for self-defense had begun. It is also beyond argument that the Republican Party became the champion of Second Amendment rights, a role it has maintained to this day. This advocacy progressed from handguns and hunting rifles to semi-automatic weapons; in other words, to killing with greater certainty and efficiency. Protests like “Who needs a semi-automatic rifle to kill a deer?” were drowned out by “That’s irrelevant ; it’s my right to own pretty much whatever kind of firearm I want!!”.

Pushback

As the right to bear all kinds of weapons enlarged, there were some notable objections. A classic that comes to mind occurred on the evening of December 16, 1991 when Warren Berger, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, made a guest appearance of the PBS show “News Hour”. He argued that over time, the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment had been seriously “adulterated” to the point where an intellectual  “fraud” had been committed on the American people.

If Berger’s judgment had any effect, it was negligible. Gun sales continued unabated; even rose as conservatives in and out of government not only ballyhooed the right to own, but started a narrative to the effect that one needed to be armed to rebel against our own government should it become tyrannical. This fear-mongering reached a fever pitch with the election of Barack Obama who was sure to abridge your Second Amendment rights, come for and confiscate your guns. After all, he was a Muslim, wasn’t he?

During Obama’s eight years as president, we as a nation, lived through the unspeakable horror of learning that 21 individuals, mostly children, had been senselessly murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Surely, this would be a turning point when this “gun-craze” would start to subside. It didn’t happen. And so we progressed on to other mass shootings in places like the church in Charleston, South Carolina and on to Las Vegas.

What do we do?

On October 3, 2017, in the aftermath of Paddock’s attack on thousands of innocents, Thomas Friedman authored a blistering attack on congressional Republicans over their long history of refusing to take a stand against gun manufacturers’ lobbyists (2) and pass some sensible, common sense gun control legislation.

In Friedman’s view, these lawmakers, as a body, are indifferent to public opinion, feckless, having been bought and kept by the aforementioned lobby. As such, he considers them beyond being persuaded. His only recourse then, is to seize power from them by supporting candidates who can and will stand up to groups like the NRA and Gun Owners of America. That support can come in the form of donations, canvassing for the candidate and of course, voting for him/her. Here is another idea that comes from your blogger:  Attend town halls and the debates between candidates and demand an answer to this and like-minded questions; “Will you here and now, publicly disavow any support for legislation that advances the sale of more lethal firearms and their accessories?” Any hedging by a candidate, any unwillingness to provide a clear “yes/no” answer should be taken as a failure of your litmus test query.

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  1. To hear rabid Second Amendment defenders talk, you would think that a gun becomes a useless piece of hardware if it isn’t equipped with a silencer and bump-stock accessory.
  2. Friedman’s op-ed is entitled “If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim”. You can Google Freidman’s name and that title and you will be taken to the New York Times website where you can read it in full.

 

 

 

Trump vs. the NFL: Feeding hate and ignorance

Prologue

It’s pretty much common knowledge now that the NFL has gone to war against Trump. How did this happen? There’s a story here that is over a year in the making so let’s begin with the back story and its main character.

History

As of this moment, Colin Kaepernick is an unemployed professional football quarterback. His former team, the San Francisco 49ers,  refused to sign him to a contract for this year because last season, this young man, all by himself, decided to make a political statement about social injustice in our country, especially as that applied to people of color. At first, he tried to make his point by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. A bit later, he reconsidered at least to the extent that out of respect for our military, he would kneel.

There is no question that Kaepernick paid a price for his demonstration. The public in general found his behavior unpatriotic and there is little question that his team’s management saw fit to distance themselves from him and that included rendering him unemployed as a 49er once the 2016 season ended.

If there were other players who shared Kaepernick’s belief about social injustice, they were slow to join him by “taking a knee”. None the less, a few did (e.g. Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks). But, there was no groundswell of support from the league, the majority of other players and the 32 team owners. Such having been the case, we can ask “Is Colin Kaepertnick a spoiled pro football player with his own personal axe to grind, or has he been onto something since the day he decided to “sit out” the National Anthem (see above)?” The history of our country  answers that question for us.

Social injustice in America

We pledge allegiance to our flag, ending that commitment with “…and liberty and justice for all”. Sadly, the history of our country is replete with instances where that simply did not happen. First with the treatment of slaves as three-fifths of a person (1). Second note that from the actual execution of the Constitution in 1787, it took another 33 years before women were accorded the right to vote in 1920. Third, after that it was another 40 years before the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960’s. Fourth, you have to fast-forward to 1995 to come to the legislation extending equal opportunities to Americans with disabilities. Fifth and finally, one must move ahead to the decade we are in now to find gays being allowed to serve openly in the military and for members of the LGBT community to marry.

Now, all the foregoing said, let’s acknowledge that this history is also one marked by the correction of the social injustices cited. That we have made much-needed progress should go without saying. Such being the case, what’s Kaepernick’s beef? The answer is that it has everything to do with his perception of the various forms of social injustice that continue to be  visited upon people of color, especially by law enforcement, criminal law, and our legal system.

Let’s arbitrarily pick the last five years as a framework:  Look at the number of questionable killings of African-Americans by local police. Check the disproportionately high number of incarcerations of people of color for minor offenses like possession of an ounce or less of marijuana and how lawmakers have ginned up legislation to make that possible. When a policeman is put on trial for the alleged use of excessive force, do juries look past evidence to acquit simply because the defendant is a cop?

Enter Trump

Right up until September 22, 2017, this is where matters stood:   The pro football season began with a small handful of players taking a knee; barely one-percent of the NFL’s player population (2). Kaepernick was not among them as he was unemployed. The hue and cry over his initial demonstration back in 2016 had diminished and the games went on even as some fans had become disaffected with the players who were now demonstrating. All this changed dramatically on the just cited date when Trump traveled to Huntsville, Alabama to campaign for Luther Strange, a candidate for one of the state’s US Senate seats that had been vacated by the appointment of Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General.

It is enough here to say that in his speech to the assemblage, 45 touched upon a number of topics that had nothing whatever to do with pro football or any sport for that matter. But, there came a point during the evening when  he elected to go into a rant about the players who had chosen to demonstrate during the National Anthem. Referring to that as “sons of bitches” he loudly proclaimed that they should all be “fired” and to “get the Hell out”.

At that moment, when Trump decided to say something about the dissident players, he could have risen above politics and behaved like a leader or statesman. Imagine him saying  “As upset as I am about their taking a knee, I have to respect the right of the players to make their make statement and even admit that where social injustice is concerned, they have a point”. Such a remark would have been consistent with our Constitution’s guarantee of free speech and our continuing need to ensure that all Americans benefit from social justice.

Instead, Trump took the low road of a pandering politician who chose to nurture the ignorance and hatred of attendants. In effect, he threw gasoline on a small, contained fire. NFL players, almost to a man, registered some form of protest at the start of games played on the subsequent Sunday (9-24). The teams’ owners saw fit to join their players in a show of solidarity by either taking a knee or standing with arms locked among them. Many issued statements that consistently referred to 45’s remarks as “divisive”.

How will this end?

People polled in the aftermath of the games on the 24th also found Trump’s outburst divisive, but were not in favor of players’ using a sports venue as a place to engage in making a political statement. There were multiple anecdotal reports of diehard fans burning the personal garb of their favorite team in their own form of protest. The prediction here is that the NFL leadership, in company with team owners, will bring the players together and find a way to move forward without engaging in an out-and-out capitulation. In contrast, the prediction here is that 45 will not recognize that conciliatory gesture and respond in kind. He sees this matter as a way of buttressing his own standing with voters and won’t allow that opportunity to pass.

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  1. Arguably perhaps, the greatest injustice in our history was a treatment of the slaves as three-fifths of a person.
  2. The NFL is comprised of 32 teams, each with a 53-man roster. That’s 1,696 players, about a tenth of whom were protesting prior to Trump’s personal assault on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here and there

Here is the US Senate where a group of its Republican members have launched a last-ditch effort to repeal/replace Obamacare (ACA). What they are proposing is more draconian in its particulars than its predecessor that went down to a one-vote defeat a few weeks ago.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the new bill’s co-sponsors, has sought to rally his troops by threatening that a failure to pass it would lead to the imposition on the country of “socialized medicine” in the form of single-payer, universal healthcare for everyone. This is fear-mongering at its worst; congressional Democrats can’t pass anything into law because they are the minority party in both houses of Congress.

So, all this said, why the “hail Mary” at the proverbial eleventh hour? It certainly isn’t about making good policy and thus, actually governing. No, it’s all about keeping the “repeal/replace” promise that GOP candidates used for over seven years to keep getting (re-)elected. It never occurred to them that they might have to deliver on their bold pronouncement. It is also about getting something (anything) done after nine solid months of zero significant accomplishments. The urgency attending all this is well-represented by the facts that the vote on the new bill will be called before a single hearing on it is held, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has completed its “scoring” (1). Thus, as the votes are being cast, not a single senator will know what the new bill will cost, who it will help and how many people it will harm. This is just about as reckless as you can get. It’s like playing Russian roulette but holding the gun, not to your head, but to that of millions of Americans who have benefited from the ACA.

Dire as the foregoing sounds and is, there is hope:  Once again, a simple 51-vote majority is needed to pass the new bill. As this blog is being typed, we know that at least two GOP senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona will join with all 48 Senate Democrats to kill this new legislation. All it will take is one more no vote and that may well come from either or both of the two Republican senators who opposed the previous proposal (Murkowski of Alaska and Collins [2] of Maine).

In the next few days, watch to see if the one more bill-killing “no” vote materializes. If it does, it would not be surprising is Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) decides to avoid the embarrassment of yet another failed repeal/replace attempt and so, skipped the vote so as to move on to other matters of business. In that case, watch Trump speak and act as though a bag of scorpions had been dropped down the front of his pants.

There is the New York City Headquarters of the UN where the General Assembly holds its meetings. In his first opportunity to address the 193 representatives of the member-nations, Trump behaved like, well, Trump. Interspersed throughout his speech, one heard the sorts of rhetorical flourishes that were so characteristic of his campaign speeches. In other words, he was alternately bombastic, mocking, threatening, nationalistic and condescending. All this was aimed at his domestic political base; the international audience, not so much.

What stood out in all of this, was Trump’s threat to tear up the deal that put a limit on Iran’s development of nuclear arms, while promising to “destroy” North Korea if it did not end its own weapons program. There seems to be some curious logic at work here:   How does 45 expect North Korea to enter into any sort of negotiations over ending their weapons regimen when 45 expresses a readiness to tear up an agreement with Iran that is already in place? (3) Could it be that Trump somehow thinks that he can bend North Korea to his will so that negotiating won’t be necessary? That falls into the category of “very wishful thinking”.

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  1. The term “scoring” is used to refer to the process by which the Congressional Budget Office estimates what costs (if any) will attend the passage of a particular bill, and how many people will be impacted, both positively and negatively.
  2. Susan Collins has already said that she is “not comfortable” voting on any bill that has not been preceded by CBO scoring. That could be taken as a signal that she will be the bill-killing 51st “no” vote.
  3. Trump referred to the Iran nuclear deal as an American “embarrassment”  doing so without considering that five other major nations were party to that same agreement. So, insult one, insult all. Whomever wrote 45’s speech clearly never thought of that and it is a “bridge” much too far to expect that 45 himself would have had the good sense to delete that from his talk. This is not what Dale Carnegie had in mind when he wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People.