Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

Impeach or not impeach: that is the question

November 10, 2018

No president — probably no public official — has ever merited impeachment more than Trump. That’s even before Mueller’s report.

If our civic system were working properly, he would be impeached and removed, almost unanimously. If it were working properly, no such monster of depravity would have been elected. There’s the problem.

Removing a president takes 67 Senate votes. Nixon was forced to resign when told responsible Republican senators would vote with Democrats to remove him. Today there are almost no such responsible Republican senators. They are hostages to their voting base of implacable Trump tribalists. Not just in primaries; on Tuesday they didn’t come out for Republicans of insufficient Trumpist faith, many of whom lost (as Trump himself so nastily crowed).

We keep hearing the words “Constitutional crisis.” Trump’s actions vis-a-vis the Justice Department and Mueller investigation may indeed become so egregious as to make impeachment almost inescapable. But without Republican support it would backfire. Just intensifying the scorched-earth political climate, while in the end actually handing Trump a win, with Republican senators cravenly voting against his removal. Even making it seem as though he’s finally been acquitted, exonerated, the slate of all his misdeeds wiped clean.

The verdict should come not from compromised senators, but from citizens. Democrats should forswear impeachment, instead relying on voters in 2020, summoning the better angels of our nature. And if it’s our worst demons that prevail, then we will know America is lost.

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What the election means

November 7, 2018

Jones

CNN commentator Van Jones said you’d think America’s “antibodies would kick in,” against the disgusting onslaught of lies, hate, bigotry, divisiveness and fear that was Trump’s campaign. But it worked, at least to a sad degree. This vile virus incurably infects a big chunk of America’s electorate. At best we can hope to quarantine them.

So Trump is undaunted; he’s even claiming victory. And there were a lot of disappointments. But at least there is some limit to the creepiness even Republicans can stomach; as in the case of Roy Moore; this time it was Kris Kobach losing the governorship in deep-red Kansas. (Kobach was the epicenter of the Republican “vote fraud” fraud.) Yet, another major creep, Brian Kemp, probably succeeded in stealing Georgia’s governorship.

Republicans did gain in the Senate. But that was largely thanks to the happenstance that the great majority of seats coming up this year were defended by Democrats. And the Senate battle took place largely in Trump country. Whereas the battle for the House of Representatives was nationwide.

And there Democrats did do thumpingly well, overcoming the stacked deck of Republican gerrymandering, to gain a substantial majority. That was the one superveningly important thing at stake, to break total Republican control and subject the Trump administration to some accountability. To literally save the country from it. And it shows this is, overall, a Democratic country. They were more than nine percentage points ahead of Republicans nationally. That’s a blue “wave.”

Antonio Delgado, victor over Faso

I pumped my fist last night when hearing of Congressman Faso’s defeat. I used to think so highly of him. But his campaign was a racist disgrace. And Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Russia) lost too.

** MAJOR PROJECTION: Republicans will never again control the House.

Even if Trump wins in 2020, it won’t be by much, and won’t flip the House back. After that, a lot of Republican gerrymandering will be undone. Several states passed referenda doing so, while Democrats gained at least seven governorships, and hundreds of state legislative seats. They will also roll back some Republican vote suppression. Furthermore, demographic trends will inexorably erode white nationalism.

And the Republican party is now basically, totally, just a white nationalist party. It was the least Trumpy Republicans who left the House or were beaten*; while in the Senate, the increased Republican majority renders irrelevant so-called moderates like Susan Collins, their votes no longer needed.

Republicans will also never again control any legislative house in New York. They lost the Senate and will be gerrymandered out of existence. New York is now a one-party state. That’s bad, but Republicans had ceased to be a legitimate opposition.

The Democratic House majority will be heavily flavored by female military vets. Kind of ironic when Trump (who never served) and the Republicans (mostly ditto) are the ones who drool over the military.

Can the House Democrats now, finally, get hold of Trump’s tax returns? Really amazing he’s managed to keep them from scrutiny this long. Not that anything in them, no matter how slimy, will shake the faith of Republicans. The NY Times recently ran a huge in-depth factual report on how Trump totally lied about how he built his business empire, it was really through massive cheating and tax fraud. Did that move any Republicans? Nope. You can’t fight tribal religion with facts.

Trump will spend the next 18 months demonizing Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats. If they were smart they’d ditch her. She’s a great insider operator, but useless at countering Trump’s shitstorm.

A big lesson from the election is that the idea of Democrats going whole-hog “progressive” was a failure. Never mind Ocasio-Cortez in her ethnic New York City enclave. Look at Florida, where the ideological Andrew Gillum unexpectedly won the gubernatorial primary, and then proceeded to lose an election Democrats really ought to have won. It was a similar story elsewhere. There simply is not a majority in this country for hard left ideology. Democrats who won did so by appealing to the mushy middle, where elections are usually decided.

Landrieu

In 2020 the presidency will be decided by whether Democrats take back Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And they can: all three elected Democratic governors. A candidate like Mitch Landrieu, Joe Biden, or Chris Murphy will win. One like Elizabeth Warren will not. Democrats must rein in their leftwing romanticism and pick a nominee pragmatically, to end the Trumpist nightmare before it totally ruins the country.

But there’s a difference between being hard left and hard anti-Trump. Democrats must stand clearly and forthrightly for a return to the fundamental American values Trump trashes. That must be the issue of 2020.

A frequent commenter on the Times-Union version of my blog constantly belabors that my words are just MY opinion, as if I’m smarter than everyone else and even seek to impose my views on them. Well, Albert, I am smarter than you. I can see reality; the difference between truth and lies; and know right from wrong. Unlike Republican Christians.

*UPDATE 12:12 PM — Trump in his “victory” speech named and sneered nastily at Republicans who didn’t “embrace” him and lost. How gracious.

The caravan and the craven

November 1, 2018

Democrats make health care the main issue of this election. For Trump it’s the “caravan.” Labeling it an “invasion” of criminals, “bad people,” Islamic terrorists; they’ve been literally called lepers.

These are lies. Trump has even lied that Democrats, or George Soros, are funding the caravan. Does anyone actually swallow such crap? Apparently Republicans. Blind to how cynically they’re being manipulated. It’s all to rev up fear, playing like a violin voters so insecure they see refugees as threats. It’s been Trump’s shtick from Day One when he called Mexicans rapists.

The “caravan” consists of fellow human beings. Victims of such hardships and horrors they’re on a desperately risky, pain-filled journey trying to escape them. People who have nothing, weary and hungry, sleeping on the ground, mothers and children, preyed upon at every step; that’s why they band together.

And what will America greet them with? Guns and bayonets. More soldiers than we’ve got fighting ISIS.

This is how we make America great again? Great like in 1939 when it turned away the St. Louis, a ship carrying 900 Jewish refugees, forcing them back to the Nazis who murdered them?

Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Another Trump applause line is “law and order.” Yet he now proposes to shred the Constitution with an illegal executive order revoking its birthright citizenship clause. He claims legal scholars endorse this.* Another lie. He said no other country has birthright citizenship. Another lie; at least thirty do.

More cynical pandering to hatred for immigrants. But if being born here doesn’t confer automatic citizenship, what makes your citizenship secure?

The Fourteenth Amendment unequivocally says anyone born here is a citizen. Only a constitutional amendment can change that. It was enacted to make clear that the ex-slaves (freed by the Thirteenth) would now be citizens, with equal protection of the law. The Fifteenth Amendment gave them the vote. The noble generosity of spirit in these amendments is breathtaking. Slaves had been the most despised of people, forced to suffer the utmost degradation. Lifting them up, and embracing them as equal fellow citizens, America showed its supreme humanity.

Trump and Republicans show supreme inhumanity. They call themselves Christians. Where did Christ say poor suffering refugees are to be repulsed with guns? These Republicans, professing to love the Ten Commandments, violate the first of them by worshipping a false god, immolating on his altar every Christian principle. For their great sin they deserve the fires of Hell.

I lift my bayonet beside the golden door.

* When Paul Ryan disagreed, Trump slammed him, saying he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Ryan deserves whatever he gets from Trump.

Make America America Again

October 29, 2018

When I wrote recently about the coming elections, I didn’t mention “health care.” Which Democrats pitch as their main issue. (Republicans respond by lying about their record.)

Columnist David Brooks thinks Democrats are missing the boat. In the remote past (pre-2016), health care might have been a great issue for them. They continue to think in materialist, transactional terms, trying to offer voters good policy. But Democrats could never fathom why many people voted against (what Dems saw as) their economic interests. And today, more than ever, many are voting not their wallets but their values, their souls.

This election is indeed not about material issues like health care. It’s about America’s soul.

In two ways. First, Trump offers a story: that America has been screwed by foreigners, both immigrants and other nations, and by corrupt elites. He offers an appeal to cultural identity; a raw nationalism, both economic (however misguided) and ethnic. Not all Trump supporters are racists; but all racists are Trump supporters. And now, gender chauvinism is added to the stew, as Trump bangs the Kavanaugh drum.

All this, as Brooks notes, reflects how today’s core ideological divide is no longer between traditional left and right, but between open and closed societal visions. Thus, on the international stage, Trump says he rejects “the ideology of globalism.” This has profound implications; a go-it-alone policy will produce a world America will find much less comfortable to live in. China’s outlook, notably, is the opposite, in terms of global engagement.

Secondly, as Brooks puts it, Trump has “overturned the traditional moral standards for how leaders are supposed to behave. He’s challenged basic norms of honesty, decency, compassion and moral conduct. He unabashedly exploits rifts in American society.”

Many Republicans say they don’t like Trump’s behavior but like his policies. Never mind how wrong they are about much of the policy picture. What they fail to grasp is how Trump’s conduct is of the essence. Especially the war on truth. He is methodically degrading our civic society, not just morally, but really destroying its whole underpinnings. We can’t have a democracy with debate unmoored from factual reality, and refusal to accept each other’s political legitimacy. This matters more than any particular policies.

All of this is why America’s soul really is on the line. As Brooks says, Trump and the Republicans have “thrown down a cultural, moral and ideological gauntlet.”

And Democrats respond with: better health insurance?

That’s not entirely fair. Many Democrats do push back against everything Trumpism represents. But not in a coherent, focused way, that really meets and answers the Trumpist threat with an alternative big-picture story. Part of the problem, according to Brooks, is that Democrats’ moral vision is of the “social justice warrior” sort, targeting how societal structures marginalize certain segments (the poor, women, blacks, gays). But “if your basic logic is that distinct identity groups are under threat from an oppressive society, it’s very hard to then turn around and defend that society from an authoritarian attack, or to articulate any notion of what even unites that society.”

It doesn’t help that Democrats don’t speak with a single voice, but a gaggle of them, that cannot really get heard in answering the huge Trump shout-a-thon. In 2016, the news media (far from working against him as Trump claims) gave him billions in free air time to blast his message. And they’re still doing it, having failed to learn their lesson, continuing to broadcast his every rally and tweet, becoming his enabler in spreading his poison. Indeed, by presenting it as news, they even give it a patina of legitimacy.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate must focus on articulating an American cultural identity different and better than what Trump appeals to. One that re-embraces the principles, ideals, and values that made America great. A vision of this nation as an open, confident and optimistic society, where all people are accorded equal dignity. A nation strengthened by its diversity. A nation that engages in the world to make it a better place, for our own benefit as well as others. In sum, an appeal (like Abraham Lincoln’s) to the better angels of our nature.

And at their convention let them reprise proudly the song they played in 1988 — what a different country it seems! — Neil Diamond’s They’re Coming to America.

The Midterms: Exterminate Republicans

October 21, 2018

I was a devoted conservative Republican for 53 years. Today’s Republican party must be exterminated (electorally). It’s in thrall to a cruel monster of depravity, making war on truth, rule of law, human decency, and every principle and value America used to stand for.

The country is ruinously divided. Our president should try, at least, to unify us. Trump does the opposite. Cynically, evilly, intentionally stoking division. I just listened to a Massachusetts senate debate where the Republican banged on about “poisonous politics.” I thought, how dare you? This from a Trump lover and constant defender.

Fools will always be suckers for demagogues and con artists. Those cheering the poison Trump spews at his rallies are a disgusting spectacle. He’s encouraged them to beat up protesters — and flattered Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, where one of them killed a woman — yet he calls Democrats an “angry mob.” And “divisive.” Perhaps fortunately, caring not a fig for the rest of us, he makes no effort to gain broader support.

This is not “conservatism.” Conservatism is not blowing up the budget deficit and national debt. Not trade wars and protectionism that screw the many to benefit a few. Not betraying America to a Russian dictator. Not abandoning our hard-won global leadership. Not abandoning human rights and democracy. Not breaking up families. Not enflaming divisiveness. Not tolerating corruption. Conservatism is not denying reality (like about climate change). Dishonesty is not conservative. It’s not tearing down our law enforcement agencies with lies. Not degrading the nation with swinish behavior. Conservatism is not xenophobia and racism. It’s not misogyny. Conservatives don’t call Nazis “very fine people.”

The Republicans are the party backed by Russia, our enemy, which subverted our 2016 election to put them in power — because Putin knew how bad Trump would be for America.

Are Democrats perfect and without sin? Tell me about it, I opposed Democrats for half a century. And if I see things through a partisan lens, it’s still really one shaped by my decades of Republicanism. But it’s the lens of an open eye, not blinded by partisanship. Now, eyes open, I see no comparison between the parties.

And worse is yet to come, when Trump’s criminality is fully exposed by the Mueller investigation, sending into overdrive the Republican war on America’s civic soul.

So decent, responsible Americans must vote, everywhere, against Republicans (with few exceptions, like for New York governor). I used to think highly of local GOP Congress members Stefanik and Faso; I endorsed Faso in 2016. But Republican control of Congress must end.

With all the attention on that battle, the importance of the other 35 governors’ races may be overlooked. But they are indeed critical, because those governors will be in office during the next redistricting after the 2020 census. Last time around, in 2010, Republicans specially targeted state legislatures, and got control of most, enabling them to gerrymander the bejesus out of the electoral maps to perpetuate their power. Democrats have since been getting more votes than Republicans, yet Republicans snare more seats thanks to gerrymandering.

Republicans have also become masters of vote suppression, imposing ID requirements, reducing early voting, closing polling stations, and purging voter rolls, all cunningly targeted against non-white, elderly, and poorer voters likely to back Democrats. Stopping them from voting. For example, North Dakota has passed a law requiring a street address for voting. Indian reservations — guess what? — don’t have street addresses. This will probably mean defeat for Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Meantime, such vile voter disenfranchisement tactics may well have made the difference in three key states Trump narrowly won in 2016, giving him the presidency. (And they have the chutzpah to talk about “election fraud.”)

Democratic governors can veto Republican gerrymandering and vote suppression schemes. One noteworthy governor’s race is Georgia’s where Stacy Abrams, a black woman with a tremendous background of accomplishment, faces a cringeworthy Trump sycophant flaunting his almost sexual love for guns. He’s also the Georgia secretary of state overseeing the election (refusing to recuse himself) and trying to keep as many blacks from voting as possible. He’s canceled more than a million voter registrations, including 50,000 new ones — mostly by blacks. To steal the election.

“Disenfranchisement” was an overused buzzword some years back. But now it’s a huge reality, with the Supreme Court having eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act; it even upheld North Dakota’s atrocity.

There’s yet another card Republicans are playing from the bottom of the deck. Exploiting their control of the federal government, they’re gaming the 2020 census, by underfunding it and adding a citizenship question to scare off Hispanic respondents (and lying about it), with the aim of undercounting areas where Democrats tend to concentrate. So there will be fewer legislative seats for those areas; and fewer electoral votes for those states.

And as election day nears, watch out for a blitzkrieg of disinformation, dirty tricks, lies, and smears, targeted against Democrats wherever they have a chance of winning, not only from Russia, but financed by tens or hundreds of millions in Republican dark money. There’s a great film detailing how it was done in one state, Montana.

In all these ways Republicans are destroying our democracy, destroying everything that made America great. They must be stopped and never allowed to have power again. That will probably be assured by demographic trends, should they lose in 2020. And if the country remains divided — with Republicans a permanent disgruntled minority — so be it. They’ve forefeited all legitimacy.

This blog post might sound hyperbolic. At one time, not long ago, I would have strongly condemned such extreme rhetoric. But so far has this country fallen that now I consider it accurate and necessary. I never imagined politics could become so black and white. I am heartsick.

I know I won’t persuade any Republicans. Tribal partisanship blinds them. My intent instead is to impress upon others what the stakes are.

If younger citizens vote in equal proportion to oldsters, Republicans would be annihilated. And the election’s results will affect younger people for a longer time. Yet most don’t vote. Why? Like everything about politics, it’s cultural. Young people are not being acculturated to voting. It’s so Twentieth Century; something their dowdy parents do, not their buddies. The effect is to drop out of our collective civic life. As though politics has nothing to do with them. They will find out too late how wrong that is.

Vote. Vote as if our future depends on it. Because it does.

 

Jamal Khashoggi, and murderers we love

October 16, 2018

The rule used to be that you could murder all the people you liked within your own borders, but doing it elsewhere was a no-no.

Or was it?

Trotsky

In 1940, Stalin’s arch-nemesis Trotsky, having been thrown out of Russia, lived in exile in Mexico. But Stalin still wanted him dead, and an agent of the Soviet secret police killed him with an ice axe. Exiled Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed in 1978 in London with a poison-tipped umbrella. Alexander Litvinienko, a defector from Russian Intelligence, was murdered in London in 2006 with radioactive poison. More recently a similar defector, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter survived a nerve agent attack that wound up killing a British woman. Iran’s regime has perpetrated the overseas murder of many opponents including a former prime minister, Shapur Bakhtiar, killed near Paris. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had his half-brother murdered in a foreign airport. Israel has done an overseas job on a Hamas terrorist. China has grabbed an inconvenient person in Thailand to whisk him back.

Khashoggi and fiancee

The latest, of course, is journalist Jamal Khashoggi, critic of the Saudi Arabian regime, who had left the country in 2017, relocating to America and writing for the Washington Post. On October 2, he went to a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey for some routine paperwork relating to his upcoming marriage, while his fiancee waited outside. Apparently knowing of Khashoggi’s plans, the Saudis had flown in 15 operatives, on two private planes, arriving and leaving the same day. Inside the consulate, they tortured Khashoggi to death, chopped up his body, and somehow disposed of it. These facts are pretty much beyond dispute.

Saudi Arabia’s nominal king is Salman (the last of the numerous sons from the harem of the founding King Saud), but the real ruler is Salman’s 33-year-old son and crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (“MBS”).

MBS

This family’s rule has never been exactly benevolent. But MBS, under the guise of modernizing and reforming the Saudi state, is actually taking it to the next level of viciousness. (Women are now allowed to drive — while advocates for their driving are being locked up.) Apparently MBS’s model for a modern state is Putin’s Russia.

And apparently this young genius MBS either imagined nobody would notice 15 guys flown in and out and Khashoggi missing, or else imagined that the world would simply yawn and move on. As to the latter, he might yet turn out to be right.

With the fact of the murder no longer plausibly deniable — facts do actually still have a toehold in this world, imagine that! So retro!! — now the Plan B is the “rogue elements” line. That is, MBS had no knowledge of those 15 guys and two planes, of course he would never have countenanced such a horrible crime. Of course not. Or maybe they never intended to kill Khashoggi, just a little good-natured horseplay, and it got out of hand. Something like that.

Trump, with his usual eloquence, said what the Saudis did was “not good.” He said there would be “severe punishment” if it were proven true. Of course, in Trumpland, words don’t necessarily mean what you or I might think they mean. Especially the word “true.” But anyhow, the “severe punishment” would not include canceling our arms deal with the Saudi regime, because that might cost us money. So now we know exactly how much, in dollars, America’s morality, principles and ideals are worth. (And never mind that the Saudis use our weapons to commit horrendous atrocities in Yemen.)

But now Trump is himself mouthing the slimy “rogue elements” lie to get MBS off the hook. Trump is not going to smack MBS, because he loves dictators, bad guys, ruthless villains, and killers. Because looking at them is like looking in the mirror. At least he fancies himself in their tough guy image.

This is in fact the Trump who recently stated that he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love. (“No, really!” Trump added; “He wrote me beautiful letters.”) Yes, our president has fallen in love with the blood-soaked North Korean dictator who had his uncle killed with anti-aircraft guns and his half-brother poisoned in a Malaysian airport. Melania, asked recently about Trump’s affairs with porn stars, said that doesn’t faze her. But what about this thing with Kim Jong-un? This is different; Trump never said he’d fallen in love with any porn stars.

Is there a new “first lady” in our future?

(Note to readers: nothing in this blog post, unfortunately, is satire.)

The Anti-Trump Albany Book Festival

October 4, 2018

This event, put on by the wonderful New York State Writers Institute, was not really political. But nobody would read this if I just titled it “Albany Book Festival.” And in fact it says a lot about our times how politics did inevitably color these proceedings. There’s no escaping America’s current crisis of the soul.

The kickoff was a reception installing Colson Whitehead as the New York State Author and Alicia Ostriker as State Poet. Both were introduced by former State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who did an admirable job talking about their work.

Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad, drolly previewed his plans for his first hundred days as State Author. Ostriker read some of her poems which didn’t seem very poetic to me. But she also read from a great one: Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus. That choice was obviously timely, with the golden door being slammed shut.

As is customary for Writers Institute events, the munchies were superb: little cakes, a chocolate fudge & whipped cream confection, cookies, fruit, etc. (A thankyou to Paul Grondahl, the Institute’s dynamic leader.)

Broderick

A legion of local authors manned individual tables showcasing their work. Noteworthy among them was poet Therese L. Broderick, author of the acclaimed Breath Debt. (My wife.)

And a legion of other great literary luminaries spoke to packed audiences. Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of our leading historians, and talked about her new book, Leadership in Troubled Times. It focuses on the lessons from four presidencies: Lincoln, TR, FDR, and LBJ.

Goodwin

Goodwin’s theme was that character, above all, is what matters. She ticked off a list of key traits: humility, empathy, valuing diverse opinions, ability to connect with all manner of people, controlling negative impulses, and keeping one’s word. In sum, emotional intelligence. Goodwin’s rundown here elicited loud laughter from the audience, for the obvious reason that our current “leader” is so glaringly devoid of all these virtues.

Hegel

I next listened to a panel of four other historians. One noteworthy discussion reminded me of Hegel’s concept of thesis and antithesis cycling to synthesis. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, ending legalized racial segregation, produced a big backlash among white southerners, resisting it, sometimes violently. But that in turn energized its own backlash, in the civil rights movement, eventual civil rights and voting rights legislation, and, one might say, the eventual election of an African-American as president. Which in turn generated another big backlash culminating in the election of a very different sort of president. Which in turn has energized civic engagement against what that represents (very much in evidence in the responses of attendees at this book festival).

SPOS

I don’t know that we’re near Hegel’s final synthesis. I’m hopeful that Trumpism is a doomed last gasp, and that America will flush its toilet for good in 2020. But experience with my own bathroom suggests a different outcome is possible.

Next I went to Marion Roach Smith’s talk on memoir writing. The room was not ideal; her husband, Times-Union editor Rex Smith, had to kneel by her side manning the computer with her power-point presentation, advancing the slides every time she signaled.

Smith

Though sometimes he misinterpreted her gesturing. But it was an excellent talk applicable not just to memoirists, but to writing in general. Her key theme: focus on what the piece of writing is really about; what its argument is. A memoir’s reader is not interested in the details of what may have occurred but, rather, in gaining some insight on a human issue.

William Kennedy is Albany’s leading literary light, who founded the Writers Institute, and recently turned 90. He’s a literary energizer bunny who just keeps going, premiering a new book at the festival.

Kennedy

His talk was a meditation on writing and the writing life. I particularly relished his discussion of Faulkner, probably my own favorite. He adverted to the idea that Faulkner’s work is uplifting. “This uplift business baffled me,” Kennedy said. Faulkner certainly depicts the worst human behavior. Yet Kennedy said he was uplifted after all, “exalted,” by writing that reaches into a person’s heart. (I have written about Faulkner on this blog, with a somewhat similar take. In fact, it was a Faulkner quote I used as the epigraph for my Rational Optimism book.)

The final event was a panel titled “The New Americans” — a group of authors born elsewhere. Again, a theme with particular resonance in today’s political environment.

Iftin

One panelist was Abdi Nor Iftin, who I got to meet and chat with at the previous night’s reception. He was the Somali guy whose tribulations getting to America were told on NPR’s This American Life. Hearing that story so moved me that I wrote a poem (previously posted here), and sent him something. He now has a book out, Call Me American. What a thrill it was for me to connect with Abdi in person.

Khan

Another panelist was Khizr Khan, whom I’ve also written about (here, and here). It was likewise a thrill to shake his hand and tell him what a privilege that was. Khan continues to remind us how our Declaration of Independence and Constitution enshrine human dignity. He said no other country’s constitution rivals ours in that regard — and that he’s actually read them all! He also said that in over 200 appearances, in connection with his book, he has everywhere found Americans wanting to hold onto these values, and hopeful not only for America but for America as “a source of light” for the rest of the world.

We must not allow that light to go out.

An hysterical Republican message

October 3, 2018

Because I once contributed, I still get Republican fundraising emails. It’s a revealing — and scary — window into their world. (Click here for one parroting Trump’s despicable “spygate” lie.)

A message I received Monday was hysterical — in both senses of the word. I literally burst out laughing. It’s from a PAC called “GreatAgain.org.” Here’s how it begins:

Frank:

The Democrats have struck a blow to President Trump’s

Supreme Court Nominee—Brett Kavanaugh.

They spent nearly 2 weeks trashing his reputation

and insinuating he’s a rapist.

Now they’re delaying a Constitutionally required

UP OR DOWN VOTE!

Umm . . . Merrick Garland?? Whose Supreme Court seat Republicans stole by refusing to vote at all — denying it was “Constitutionally required?”

That’s what made me laugh out loud. The shameless hypocrisy is beyond hysterical. But it isn’t funny that these creeps are actually in power in America.

In addition to asking (of course) for money, “GreatAgain” urged calling three wavering senators to “demand” a vote for Kavanaugh, helpfully listing their numbers:

Call these Senators and tell them:

“We’re not playing this game.”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine (R-ME)      (202) 224-2523

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA)                   (202) 224-3954

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (R-AK)   (202) 224-6665

So, thanks to GreatAgain, I did contact the three: urging a vote AGAINST Kavanaugh, who’s crucially lied about his position on Roe v. Wade, if nothing else; who plenty of evidence shows was a nasty drunk; and whose out-of-control partisan rant before the Judiciary Committee renders him totally unfit for the nation’s highest court.

Last night we had some people over. We don’t drink beer, but my wife filled the fridge with 6-packs. “What,” I said to her, “were you expecting Kavanaugh?”

Kavanaugh: America grabbed by the pussy

September 28, 2018

He said/she said. She testified about sexual transgressions by the Supreme Court nominee. He rejoined with an emphatic, highly emotional denial. I was inclined to believe him, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

But in the years since, it has become altogether clear that Anita Hill was telling the truth, and Clarence Thomas was lying. He still sits on the court, its longest serving member. If you call it “serving.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was certainly telling the truth. Kavanaugh was not. His tearful, indignant histrionic performance may have been worthy of an emmy, but not of his elevation to the nation’s highest court.

Testimonials from legions of women, who’ve known Kavanaugh, have vouched for his upstanding behavior. Human beings are complex and deep. A person may behave beautifully in most contexts and abominably in another. Kavanaugh testified that he sometimes had too many beers; what “too many” meant was not clarified. But too many beers can make people do things they would not ordinarily do. Things they don’t even remember. Kavanaugh may even have convinced himself his attempted rape didn’t happen.

And if Kavanaugh was sober during his raging performance yesterday, can you imagine what this guy would be like with “too many beers” in him?

And he does not, in fact, have a record of honesty. His previous testimony in these hearings was fundamentally a lie, calling Roe v. Wade “settled law,” as though it would be safe from him, when in truth he will vote to overturn it. Which indeed is virtually the raison d’etre of his nomination.

Some Republican Senators, so vocal in denouncing Democrats and supporting Kavanaugh (like John Cornyn) meantime also said Ford was convincing and credible. It’s been said the sign of true intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs.

At the end of NPR’s coverage, correspondents were asked for one word to describe the day’s events. They arrived at “tragic,” and I agree. This episode shows starkly just how broken our politics, our civic culture, has become. I used to respect Lindsay Graham as a serious, responsible, even statesmanlike character. Now his Trump derangement syndrome was in full flower as he foamed at the mouth in hysterical defense of such a dubious cause.

A poll this morning shows 48% of white evangelical Christians — “Christians” — want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court even if he tried to rape Dr. Ford. Christians who, unlike atheists, get morality from God.

For all the venom Republicans spewed at Democrats for their conduct here, Republicans’ own conduct is characterized by their leader McConnell’s candid statement that they’re going to “plow right through” everything to get their man on the Court no matter what. No matter what Kavanaugh may have done.

They have the power to do it. America should be ashamed for allowing such people to have power.

Trump’s cruel war on refugees and immigrants intensifies

September 27, 2018

When, for this post, I googled “U.S. refugee admissions,” the very first thing that came up was this quote on the State Department’s website:

“The United States is proud of its history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. The U.S. refugee resettlement program reflects the United States’ highest values and aspirations to compassion, generosity and leadership.”

I thought this might be old — but no, strangely enough, it’s still on the website today.

U.S. refugee admissions have fallen steadily since 1994. The refugee cap for President Obama’s last year was 110,000. In his first year Trump slashed that to just 45,000 — the lowest ever (since Congress passed the 1980 Refugee Act). And the number actually admitted was far lower still — 21,000.

The administration has now announced that the cap will be slashed again, for the coming year, to only 30,000.

This at a time when worldwide refugee numbers are surging. There are now 68 million displaced people, including 25 million classified as refugees. Thus we are taking in about one tenth of one percent of the world’s refugees. One in a thousand. Is this the Trump administration’s idea of “compassion, generosity and leadership?”

In his UN speech (where his lying braggadocio was literally laughed at) Trump said the answer for refugees is for their own countries to be fine to live in. Yeah, right. As if he’s doing anything toward that end.

Trump demonizes refugees and migrants as a safety threat. Another of his big lies. In fact they commit fewer crimes than the average American. No refugee has ever committed an act of domestic terrorism. Nor are they an economic burden. Immigrants strengthen our economy and are net contributors. A recent article in The Economist said that if Silicon Valley fizzles out it will be because we’ve foolishly stopped up the immigration pipeline.

And indeed it’s not just refugees (and their children) Trump is targeting — and illegal immigrants — but legal immigrants too. He’s been pushing a set of proposals that would cut legal immigration by up to half. And as if that weren’t enough, now Trump proposes (Congressional action not needed) that receiving any sort of public benefit will disqualify an immigrant from a green card (which means legal residence).

The range of public benefits, that have become so much a part of American life, is vast, making it hard to imagine how anyone could comply with such an extreme rule. For example, suppose you, like most seniors, receive prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. That’s a “public benefit,” pursuant to Trump’s prospective rule.

Ostensibly the rule would apply only to new green card applicants (in order to reject many of them), but it seems unclear how it could affect people previously approved. Some may be caught out when reapplying or renewing their green cards. Some may feel compelled to stop using “public benefits” to protect their status. Anyhow, when all these benefit programs were enacted, they didn’t say “citizens only.” In some cases there’s a five-year waiting period. But otherwise, legislators knew these benefits would be available to legal residents, and nobody ever imagined it would make any kind of sense to exclude them entirely.

How many more times will I have to use this picture?

Nobody until Trump and his depraved administration. The vicious meanness of this latest atrocity takes away one’s breath and twists one’s stomach.

In a different country — Canada — it’s been reported that citizens brought folding chairs to queue up overnight to apply for the privilege of sponsoring a refugee.

Somebody ought to re-write that State Department website, now a cruel mockery of what America used to stand for.