Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

What are we saying when we talk?

May 18, 2019

That was the subject for a fascinating entry by “Johnson” (after Samuel), The Economist’s language columnist.

We typically say language is for communicating and conveying information. But the two are not the same. A study cited in the column found only 36% of utterances purport to be factual statements. The rest instead have social purposes; either as social lubricants or to convey something about the speaker.

Johnson cited for example Christians who might say, “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus.” Maybe not an everyday conversational gambit. Anyhow, I’ve pointed out that what we think we believe and what we truly believe can differ. Johnson posits that a lot of Christians don’t really truly believe in the resurrection; rather they are saying, “I am a Christian and it is important that I say this.” The latter is what they aim to convey — not that the resurrection was real. I’d put it in terms of delineating one’s personal identity.

Then there’s Trump. Johnson notes his telling fans that the Obamas built a wall around their house. Turns out they didn’t. But for Trump and his audience that was irrelevant. He wasn’t actually telling them, “this is a fact.” Instead he was communicating something about himself. Something like, “I share your loathing for Obama, that n_____.”

Yet, with all due respect for Johnson, there’s really more going on with Trump, he’s a special case. Normal people have a filter to vet utterances before they come out. Trump doesn’t. Recently he said his father was born in Germany. Actually it was the Bronx. Why misstate such a thing? He denied having any role concerning Jared Kushner’s security clearance; it turns out he had a very big role. This is not just ordinary lying, but pathological lying. A disturbed relationship with reality. What comes out of his mouth at any given moment is what his brain thinks fits with his narrative of the moment — reality being irrelevant. One very sick puppy here.

And here’s another point Johnson didn’t make. We understand pretty well what the story is when buddies banter in a bar; and it’s fine. However, it’s different when the president of the United States speaks in public. His office invests him with an awesome trust and responsibility, his utterances are highly consequential. Furthermore, people have long believed “all politicians lie,” a vast overstatement, but this basic reflexive distrust makes it all the more incumbent upon a president to use the greatest care when speaking, doing everything possible to avoid misstatements. Trump’s doing the very opposite is corrosive to the relationship between citizens and their government; devastating to our civic discourse and our whole civic culture.

Those are factual statements.

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Plan-free fact-free anal sphincter foreign policy

May 16, 2019

Everyone before was stupid. He knows everything. Intelligence briefings, consulting experts, careful planning — loser stuff. The great deal-maker’s own great instincts alone would make America great again.

Are we there yet?

I’ve written about big-picture foreign policy — how since 1945 America’s painstaking construction of a cooperative global order has served our interests while also making a better world. And how Trump is nihilistically smashing it.

Bob Woodward’s book Fear explains that Trump likes to “fly by the seat of his pants . . . did not want to be derailed by forethought. As if a plan would take away his power, his sixth sense.” It portrays a man ruled by anger and ego, impervious to facts, incapable of focusing. For a time, adults around him struggled to forestall disaster. Now they’re all gone.

Let’s see how plan-free foreign policy is working out:

NORTH KOREA. The great deal-maker imagined just schmoozing his way to triumph. Returned from his first summit with Kim Jong Un declaring victory, problem solved, no more nuke threat. Nobel prize! Turns out (surprise) the “deal” was bullshit. North Korea agreed to nothing and continues testing missiles. Kim harvested valuable prestige at no cost. The great deal-maker has no plan.

IRAN. It took years for the U.S. and five other leading powers to negotiate a deal that would significantly slow Iran’s nuclear weapons development. Trump tore it up to replace it with . . . nothing. He had no plan. Now Iran will get a bomb sooner. While the regime hardliners, who hated the deal, are strengthened. Our allies are antagonized. And now too, with our modus vivendi with Iran shredded, there’s looming military conflict. Not a war we could “win;” almost certain to be a horrible mess and disastrous for American strategic interests.

VENEZUELA. Trump loves dictators. (Just hosted Viktor Orban who’s destroyed Hungary’s democracy.) So why not Maduro? Simple: his regime made the mistake of calling itself “socialist.”

Trump imagined pressure would cause Venezuela’s military to flip and oust Maduro. Didn’t understand the military is the regime, its leaders profiting, and terrorizing lower ranks against defections. And what about our threat of military intervention? Also sure to be a horrible bloody mess and disastrous for our larger interests.

So while loudly proclaiming Maduro must go, Trump has no plan.

SYRIA. What is the plan?

CHINA. Trade wars are easy to win? Tell that to the 1930s. What’s especially stupid is a democracy picking a trade war with a dictatorship that’s much more able to endure economic pain. Trump blundered into this battle with no plan for winning it.

He insists his tariffs on Chinese imports will be paid by China. Just like Mexico would pay for his wall. In fact American consumers will pay, through higher prices at the cash register. Estimates range up into the thousands per family. This will also mean U.S. job losses — estimated up to a million or more.

And this doesn’t count our economic damage from the retaliatory tariffs China is slapping on us.

True, our economy is doing great. No thanks to Trump’s trade war, but in spite of it. Without it we’d be doing even better. (And our prosperity actually owes far more to Obama than to Trump.) A 600 point fall in the Dow shows the market realizes how bad for us the trade war is.

Meantime, we might fare better against China if our allies presented a united front. The TPP deal would have been just that, but Trump ditched it, while further kicking our friends in the teeth, even picking trade fights with some of them too. So we’re now on our own battling China.

We do have real trade issues with China, but tariffs are not the remedy. Trump literally doesn’t understand global economics. He imagines if we buy more from China than we sell them, they’re ripping us off. No economist (except liar Peter Navarro) thinks that. If China can sell us widgets cheaper than we can make them ourselves, it’s to our advantage to buy theirs and make other things. What consumers save on widgets enables them to spend more elsewhere — creating jobs.*

ISRAEL & PALESTINIANS.  For half a century, very smart knowledgeable people couldn’t solve this. So Trump tapped son-in-law Jared Kushner, with zero relevant knowledge and experience, to create a plan. Soon to be unveiled as the greatest thing ever. Apparently it will avoid the issue of a Palestinian state. Why did no one think of that before? But meantime Trump’s pro-Israel actions have already scotched America being seen as an honest broker, so there’s no way Palestinians will buy into whatever fabulous plan Kushner concocts.

I didn’t vote for Obama and heavily criticized his foreign policy. But Obama was a foreign policy genius compared to this anal sphincter.

* Woodward’s book details how economic advisor Gary Cohn failed to make Trump see he’s screwing the 84% of our economy that’s services to benefit (a little of) the 16% that’s manufacturing. Cohn finally resigned. The book shows Trump believes trade is bad, full stop. So willfully stupid it’s insane.

Faking democracy

May 13, 2019

Kings used to rule everywhere by “divine right.” It was unquestioned. “Democracy” wasn’t even a thing. But in modern times it has acquired such universal moral force that even the most tyrannical regimes feel they must give it lip service. As in “The Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea.” It takes no fewer than three liberal-sounding words to lipstick that pig. They even pretend to “vote” in “elections.”

Is this progress of a sort? Well, at least “divine right” rulers were honest about it. Now, dictators are perfecting the art of faking democracy.

I’ve written recently how Venezuela’s regime practices democratic theater to create a potemkin fiction of popular sovereignty.

Then there’s Turkey. I’d warned that by electing Erdogan president, and then voting him untrammeled powers, they’d politically disembowel themselves. They did it anyway (probably helped by regime ballot rigging).

Yet in March elections, an opposition candidate somehow managed to narrowly win Istanbul’s mayoralty. Erdogan cried foul, claiming vote fraud — with a straight face. Then the regime-controlled electoral authority simply annulled the result, scheduling a revote (whose outcome, observers say, Erdogan will not leave to chance). The legal pretext for this usurpation was transparently phony. Meantime, in numerous other cities, elected opposition mayors have simply been kicked out, and the runners-up installed.

All this Erdogan — still with a straight face — calls a triumph of democracy.

Then there’s Thailand. In 2011, I wrote a post titled “Democracy wins in Thailand.” It was a resounding vote against anti-democratic pro-royalty, pro-military forces. But in 2014 the army stomped in and seized power. Then came the obligatory charade of a “transition” back to “democracy,” with a new constitution blatantly stacked to keep the military chief in power. The army would even appoint the entire upper house of parliament.

The Thai king since 1946, Bhumibol, was revered to excess, supposedly above politics but giving free reign to anti-democratic palace and military intriguers, including 2014’s putschists. But he was literally uncriticizable by grace of a draconian “lese majeste” law, useful for jailing anyone, for any words construable as unflattering toward the monarchy. Bhumibol died in 2018, succeeded by Vajiralongkorn, a vile arrogant self-indulgent creep even more in bed with the military rulers.*

They’ve finally held an “election” under the new constitution, and despite every possible trick to hamstring opponents and rig the result, the military still failed to gin up a parliamentary majority. Or so it seemed — until the electoral authority simply changed the opaque formula for allocating seats, and hence the outcome. For good measure, the leader of one of the biggest opposition parties has been thrown in jail on ludicrous charges.

Then there’s America. Trump has shown his contempt for democracy. In 2016 he said he’d accept the election result only if he won. Now he thinks Congress’s subpoenas for documents and for testimony by administration officials can be simply ignored. If this is rewarded with his re-election, that will be a big step down the road toward joining Venezuela, Turkey, and Thailand, in their sham of “democracy.”

* My setting foot in Thailand would risk imprisonment for those words. Seriously. An Australian writer made that mistake. (His book had reportedly sold one copy.)

Trump escalates assault on democratic governance and rule of law

April 29, 2019

Recently I wrote about Venezuela’s slide into dictatorship. Such regimes hold elections but exploit their control to effectively deny citizens a voice.

America’s Republicans do this. There’s gerrymandering, of course, both parties do that, but voter suppression is a particularly vicious specialty of Republicans alone. And when Wisconsin elected a Democratic governor, the Republican-controlled legislature passed bills to strip the office of key powers. And in 2018 Florida passed a referendum restoring voting rights to ex-felons — but the Republican governor and legislature say, “Nothing doing.” And the Trump administration is trying to game the census to undercount Latinos, to reduce their voting power.* This travesty seems likely to be upheld by the Supreme Court’s Republican majority. (Time was, I’d bridle at such cynical partisan characterization of the court. Chief Justice Roberts might step back from shredding its cloak of impartiality. But don’t hold your breath.)

In Venezuela, the Maduro regime was so unpopular by 2015 that its vote-rigging wasn’t enough to keep the opposition from winning Congress. Which then tried to hold the regime accountable. What did Maduro do? He quite simply disregarded Congress. That’s right — whatever Congress legislated, the President ignored. (He set up another body, packed with regime toadies, supposedly superseding Congress.) Control of the courts helps Maduro get away with this.

“It can’t happen here?”

It’s happening.

Our democratic constitutional system vests various powers in Congress, to hold the presidency accountable. The House Ways and Means Committee has sent the Treasury Department a demand for Trump’s tax returns. This was done pursuant to an explicit law, it’s legally incontestable. But the White House says the returns will never be handed over. (What is he hiding?) The lawful requisition is being simply ignored. And the Trump organization is suing Congress to keep requested business records hidden too.

The White House is also telling its people to defy subpoenas for them to testify before Congress. This includes former White House Counsel Donald McGahn testifying about Trump’s lies concerning Mueller. And Carl Kline, responsible for the improper security clearances for Jared Kushner and others, that Trump also lied about. And John Gore, a Justice Department official subpoenaed to testify about the lies involved with the mentioned census manipulation.

How does Congress enforce its subpoenas for testimony and documents? By prosecutions for “contempt of Congress.” Which go through the Department of Justice. Controlled by guess who. Meantime Trump may try to assert “executive privilege,” like Nixon did regarding the Watergate tapes. The Supreme Court ruled Nixon had to turn them over. Will it reverse this precedent for Trump? We’ll see.

Remember when Republicans used to posture as Constitution worshipers? They still bang on about the law when it comes to immigration. But Trump feels his regime can — just like in Venezuela — simply ignore Congress and anything it tries to do. Cocking a snook at constitution and law.

And why not? He’s spent his whole life getting away with such shit. The Mueller investigation found he attempted to obstruct justice, yet there are no consequences. Indeed, he’s even braying exoneration. Now he feels he’s Prometheus unbound.

Democratic governance? Checks and balances? Accountability? Rule of law? Those are for chumps.

* At issue is adding a citizenship question to the census. The administration’s pretext is that the Justice Department somehow needs this to enforce the Voting Rights Act. They say this with a straight face — as if they’re not actually eviscerating the Voting Rights Act.

Russia & Norway & Trump & Mueller & Truth

April 21, 2019

Russia has invaded Norway. That’s the premise of the Netflix series Occupied, recently reviewed here. Now we’ve started Season 2, eight months have passed and the situation is . . . the same. It does worsen, yet basically it feels like watching the same stuff just repeating.

Just like America’s political scene. Stuck in this unending psychodrama, each new episode seeming repetitive. Though it too does worsen. A year and a half to go.

This is what we tuned in for, in November 2016, and we can’t change the channel till November 2020. While our screens are filled with ear-splitting static.

Let’s cut through that and be clear about Mueller’s findings.

First, Russia did engage in a massive state-sponsored attack on our democracy. (We already knew this.) Whether it changed the election’s outcome is impossible to prove, but given its extent and the narrowness of Trump’s win, it’s obvious the Kremlin succeeded in putting its man in the White House.

Republicans — traditionally so anti-Russian — just shrug. And basically nothing is being done. Because Trump sees the whole story as a personal affront, undermining the validity of his “triumph.”

But put Russia aside.

The other story is obstruction of justice. Was Trump exonerated? No. Innocent? No. Was it a case of insufficient evidence? No. About this, Attorney General Barr’s summary and press conference were flagrantly misleading.

Mueller — based on sworn evidence and documented facts — proved that Trump, on numerous occasions, did attempt to obstruct justice. Note that the attempt, even if unsuccessful, is still a serious crime. And Trump was unsuccessful only because his orders were disobeyed.

The past two years saw much discussion of whether Trump would really cross the line and fire Mueller. Now we know he did direct his Counsel, Don McGahn to do just that. McGahn refused. (Trump is infuriated with McGahn for telling the truth.)

That’s just one point. There were others. And in addition to thusly abusing his power, to sabotage the Russia investigation, Trump (and Republicans and Foxers) have waged a two year smear campaign against not only the Mueller probe but the FBI, DOJ, and our intelligence services, as well as the press for reporting what turns out (no surprise) to be the truth, as documented in the report. This assault on the foundations of our democracy and rule-of-law continues, indeed grows even more hysterical as the evidence of Trump’s criminality mounts.

The report also makes clear that Trump’s White House is a cesspool of lies. (We already knew this too.)

Yet in spite of it all, 40% of Americans still support him. A profound sickness of our civic soul.

So why didn’t Mueller have Trump indicted for obstruction of justice? Not because the evidence was insufficient. The only reason, the report explains, was the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting president. Nothing in the Constitution requires that policy. But it’s the sole reason Trump wasn’t indicted. So Mueller’s report says the responsibility now falls to Congress to fulfill its duty and act upon these crimes in the way the DOJ could not. Thus in effect Mueller recommends impeachment.

Of course, impeachment is politically impossible absent major Republican support. And Republicans are loyal not to America but only to the criminal in the White House (or are totally cowed by him).

Stay tuned for further episodes. As I keep saying: it will get worse.

Pete Buttigieg — Are we ready for a gay president?

April 14, 2019

Pete Buttigieg (pronounced Buddha-judge) is the young (37) mayor of an Indiana town (South Bend), running for president. Well, why not? Everybody else is.

There’s always an array of “dark horse” candidates, some in for the fun of it, the exposure, or delusional hopes. Buttigieg initially seemed to be such a case. But now he’s getting serious traction, because it turns out he’s actually a terrific guy.

 

You might think an unknown like him would try to break through by flame-throwing stridency. Buttigieg is doing the opposite. He’s been described as slightly left of Biden and right of all the other candidates trying to outbid each other for the zealot vote. Interviewed on the New Yorker Radio Hour, I was really impressed by Buttigieg’s calm, intelligent reasonableness. That itself is actually a shocker in today’s political environment.

Radical reasonableness — isn’t that exactly what we need, after a generation of howling scorched-earth partisanship?

Buttigieg does suffer from a weird name (sure to be the butt of jokes). Also, he’s married to a man. The American mainstream did come around to accept gay marriage. So how about a gay president?

Many thought we weren’t ready for a black one, but when it came down to it, the country in 2008 (enough voters at least) saw more important qualities in Obama than his color. It actually seemed almost immaterial; maybe even a plus (with some people seeing an Obama vote as proving they’re not racist). Would Buttigieg’s gayness fare similarly?

Obama did not run as “the black candidate” and tried to be reassuring to race-anxious whites. Similarly Buttigieg is not running as the gay guy. It may be politically incorrect to say this, but he’s not in-your-face gay, having no stereotyped gay mannerisms. He exudes normality. So perhaps, in light of the five-alarm dumpster fire of depravity that is Trump, Buttigieg’s gayness would look like a minor detail.

Still, with America’s very soul at stake in 2020, I’m concerned that Democrats cannot afford to lose any potential votes. That includes racists, misogynists, and homophobes. True, they’re nearly all Trumpers anyway. But maybe some can be persuaded to vote for a candidate who at least doesn’t wave a red flag in their faces. Running a gay one in 2020 would be a big gamble I’m not sure is prudent.

And if Buttigieg is elected, then what? With Obama, we first thought we’d entered a post-racial nirvana; but how wrong that was. There were plenty of legitimate policy reasons to oppose Obama, but in a lot of people’s hearts his true sin was governing-while-black. Those people went nuts. This intensified what was already bitter partisan division. With a Buttigieg presidency, the god-hates-fags folks won’t slink away under a rock. They too will go nuts.

It will be bad enough even with a plain vanilla president. For many people now just the label “Democrat” is virtually equivalent to “Satanic.” That alone will put them on the warpath. Trump won’t slink away either, he’ll keep tweeting, and the media won’t be able to take their eyes off the disaster scene.

So maybe this infection is really incurable after all, and we must live with it. Keeping it under control with medication — by, year after year, beating it down with our votes. Votes for what is good, decent, honest, and reflective of this country’s highest ideals and values. Making America great again.

The tragic Trump foreign policy

April 8, 2019

Foreign policy rarely figures much in U.S. elections. China, Mexico, and Russia were actually prominent in 2016 — though not in a good way. A recent Thomas Friedman column points out that Democratic presidential hopefuls, so far, are focused on domestic issues. As if the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

Many Americans do think that way — “we should worry about problems here at home.” Trouble is, no country is an island. What happens elsewhere can hugely impact us here. Remember WWII?

World history is largely a history of such violent conflicts. Until lately. Steven Pinker has written compellingly about warfare’s decline. A key factor has been American leadership, after 1945, in building a rules-based world order, knitted together through global institutions and organizations, with a broad web of alliances, and by an international trading system, that makes more nations more prosperous. When they get richer, they have more of a stake in the system, and can buy more from us. Spreading democracy too is key, also promoting prosperity and reducing costly violence. Dictatorships feature in virtually all the world’s wars. More democracy, more stability, and more prosperity in other countries, all make America better off.

But this propitious world order is unravelling. And Trump, far from defending it, is actually helping to blow it up. Ripping up its institutional underpinnings. Like the World Trade Organization, promoting commerce through rules-based norms. Trump refuses to fill the American slots among WTO judges, paralyzing it. And he’s egged on Britain’s Brexit crazies, pulling apart the European Union. As if this reckless nihilism somehow helps America.

Friedman explains that the American-built world order is also under assault from not one but three regimes who see their interests as opposed to ours. Notice I said “regimes,” not “countries.” Those regimes aren’t really serving their people’s national interests but their own power (that’s the problem with undemocratic regimes).

The three are Russia, China, and Iran, all trying to bully their way to regional dominance, in order to whip up nationalistic fervor at home. Russia has invaded Georgia and Ukraine and forcibly seized Crimea, the most brazen of attacks on post-WWII global norms. Russia also works to wreck democracies by subverting elections. China violates international law by grabbing and militarizing a huge expanse of the Pacific, and aims to ensnare many other countries in debt traps.* Iran spreads its influence through destabilizing proxy wars in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria (where Russia also makes murderous mischief).

Friedman further explains that while these bad actors all grow stronger, some other countries grow weaker — the “failed state” syndrome that creates more big headaches. Including fleeing populations that are politically destabilizing in the better-off nations they try to reach.

Climate change exacerbates all this, further disrupting the world. And while in the past our biggest fear was nuclear war, today a host of miscreants have a panoply of potent tools for causing havoc. A cyber-attack, for example, targeting vital infrastructure (like the power grid) is practically just waiting to happen. And even if we dodge that bullet, the gathering tsunami of technological change is up-ending the world’s economic game board. These are all global problems that require global thinking.

Yet Trump’s America is retreating, abandoning leadership, pulling up the drawbridge. Venezuela is the exception proving the rule (its mistake is using the hated word, “socialist”). But mainly it’s disengagement; a glaring example being the recent escalation of hostilities between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed. Time was, America would actively work to defuse such crises. The Trump administration’s response was instead, “Go at it.” In fact, he hasn’t even bothered to name an ambassador to Pakistan! Nor to Egypt, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia.

And where America disengages, bad guys are all too eager to exploit the vacuum. Thus Russia’s messing with Syria, in response to America’s passivity (which began under Obama).

Some see a tension between a moralistic foreign policy and pursuing national interest. But happily, doing what is right most often actually serves our national interest, if viewed in proper perspective. It is good for America to have a world where morality and democracy thrive; and good for America when others throughout the world see us as standing for morality and democracy. That’s America’s tremendously potent “soft power.”

Trump doesn’t grasp this most basic of concepts; indeed, he’s actually in opposition to it. His foreign policy is assertively amoral. Aligning America not with the angels but with the bad guys. Like when Kashoggi’s murder implicated the Saudi ruler, Trump stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him. And professed being “in love” with Kim Jong Un, a truly vicious dictator. These things speak volumes to people throughout the world, who used to look up to America.

But it’s too charitable to see any theme at all in Trump’s foreign policy. It is really just incoherent and brainless. We have a president astonishingly ignorant about global realities; thinking he knows everything, and most of it is wrong.** In fact Trump’s erratic behavior shows he has no idea what he’s doing and is too arrogant to take sensible advice. This makes all the “America First” chest-thumping a tragic joke. (It’s also terrible for the future of the world’s other seven billion people.)

Trump recently announced U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, bragging that no previous president had acted so boldly. Well, there were very good reasons why none did! (And the great deal-maker gave Israel’s prime minister this gift for nothing in return.)

We desperately need to push the foreign policy re-set button with a new president who is on his or her game — bigly. One with the experience, understanding, seriousness, competence, sanity, and moral center to engage intelligently with world problems. To restore our precious web of invaluable global partnerships — with countries that share our democratic values — partnerships that Trump has been shredding. Some of the damage will be very hard to undo after four years (God forbid eight), but we must try.

Otherwise you can take your “Make America Great Again” hat and eat it.***

* Don’t know what I’m talking about? Do some reading.

** Am I presumptuous (or worse) for daring to think I know more than the president? Fact: I have forgotten more about world affairs than Trump ever knew. (Reading helps.)

*** My original draft had a cruder suggestion. But I exercise restraint.

Trump’s clearancegate

April 5, 2019

Asked whether he’d had any role in Jared Kushner’s security clearance, Trump said no. Turns out he lied. Ivanka lied about this too.

In fact, Trump directly ordered Chief of Staff John Kelly to ram through security clearances that had been denied for Kushner and Ivanka, his nepotism advisers — and for over twenty others whose clearances had also been denied by the White House security office with responsibility for such matters.

Those determinations were for reasons including drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, mental illness, criminality, and foreign business entanglements, all of which could be exploited to compromise these appointees. In several cases the denials were said to be for “very serious reasons.” Kushner in particular was stated to have “too many significant disqualifying factors.” Certain countries were known to be discussing ways to manipulate him by exploiting his financial vulnerabilities and extreme lack of relevant experience.

The whistleblower here, Tricia Newbold, an 18-year career official, reported that because she wouldn’t play ball on these clearances, she was the target of various sorts of harassment, including suspension without pay.

This administration’s reckless trashing of established security protocols is unprecedented. No previous president is known to have thusly corrupted clearances. The process is aimed at protecting sensitive classified information, to which officials like Kushner are privy, from getting into the hands of hostile foreign powers. It’s extremely important. Trump is driving a truck through our national security firewalls. (He himself irresponsibly handed sensitive classified material to the Russian ambassador, right in the Oval Office.)

Another day, another travesty. I’m committed here to let none (well, no big ones) pass unremarked. Precisely because that’s what’s happening in the wider world. This clearance scandal, in any past time, would have been hugely explosive. Certainly it’s a vastly graver threat to national security than Hillary’s emails. But in the raging Trump shitstorm, this hardly even registers as a blip.

We also now hear Trump is appointing Herman Cain (remember that whacko creep?) to the Federal Reserve Board. Caligula supposedly appointed his horse to a consulship. That was probably ancient fake news. Like Nero’s fiddling while Rome burned. But America is burning, and Democrats are fiddling over Biden’s hugging.

Biden, Lucy Flores, and “MeToo”

April 1, 2019

It started with Harvey Weinstein. Actually, no, it started a million years ago. Disgusting behavior by men toward women. The reckoning was long overdue.

Lucy Flores says Joe Biden, in 2014, touched her shoulder and kissed the back of her head.

Flores and Biden

Flores was running (unsuccessfully) for Nevada Lieutenant Governor. Biden had come out there to help her. His actions — in public, at a campaign event — were obviously intended as gestures of support and encouragement. A lot of thanks he’s gotten from Lucy Flores (now a Sanders enthusiast). She says Biden made her uncomfortable.

Too many women have suffered real ghastliness from men, abusive behavior, intimidation, outright sexual assault. Literal rape in Weinstein’s case. True victims. Those perpetrators deserve punishment and pariahdom.

Flores claims Biden’s touch made her uncomfortable? Know what I’d say to this lady? Boo hoo. Grow up. If this was a big deal for you, you’ve led a charmed life.

Flores & Sanders. Umm . . . what is wrong with this picture?

You want a perfect presidential candidate? Who’s never done anything anyone could question? Then find a hermit who’s lived in a cave his whole life. Biden’s lived in public, interacting with people day in and day out, by the thousands. Sometimes people can take things wrong.

The other day I e-mailed my daughter about a draft report she wrote. I was mostly laudatory (ending with “Bravo!”) but included a couple of language corrections. Focusing on the latter she angrily accused me of belittling her work. I was mortified.

That’s what can happen with interactions among imperfect fallible humans. Long ago I was on track to marry a woman — until I sent her something meant as a joke. She read it literally and freaked out. End of relationship.

Maybe that disqualifies me from the presidency. But if the Flores thing is Biden’s worst sin, he’s a goddamn saint.

Compare this: “I did try and fuck her. She was married . . . I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there . . . She’s now got the big phony tits . . . I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it . . . Grab them by the pussy.”

The contrast with Biden could not be more stark. He is about as good and decent a human being as you can find. May be the nation’s best hope for redemption from the depraved monster in the White House. For Democrats themselves to destroy him, over Lucy Flores, would be tragically insane. How ironic if “MeToo” winds up the cause of Pussygrabber’s re-election.

Witch hunt politics

March 28, 2019

Now the backlash. Accusing the accusers. Trump calling them “evil” and “treasonous.” Retribution time. A real witch-hunt. David Brooks says Adam Schiff, John Brennan, and other Democrats should apologize for “grievous accusations against the President that are not supported by the evidence.” (He also says Trumpeters should apologize for undermining America’s institutions. Fat chance; they’re drunk with triumph, which Brooks feeds.)

His headline is “We’ve all made fools of ourselves.” Not so. Trump makes fools of us (especially of his supporters).

I’m not apologizing. He has not been “exonerated.” If Trump and company did not “collude” they certainly connived with Russia’s attack on our democracy. And lied about it. If Trump can’t quite be nailed for obstruction of justice, he certainly tried hard to wreck the investigation; smearing the investigators with lies; firing the FBI Director and Attorney General in that effort. His tearing down our intelligence and law enforcement institutions did immense harm. And he refused to stand up for America against Russia’s attack, kissing Putin’s posterior in Helsinki. None of this was a “hoax;” its stench not washed off by Mueller.

But Brooks does make a trenchant point. Stepping back for a larger perspective, he says, “Watergate introduced a poison into the American body politic” — what Bill Clinton called “the politics of personal destruction” — rather than principled discourse. Now “you don’t need to do the hard work of persuading people to join your side.” You just aim to bring them down with scandal. (Republicans also try to block them from voting.)

While “[t]he nation’s underlying divides are still ideological,” Brooks writes, “we rarely fight them honestly as philosophical differences.” Instead of seriously debating opponents we demonize them as evil. They counter with, “No, you’re evil.”

So Hillary in 2016 was not attacked for her policy positions; Republicans smeared her character. Now we have a president whose character flaws and record of corruption are so incandescent they define our political situation. And how do many Republicans respond? “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary!”

In comparison it makes Animal House’s food fight seem like the Oxford Union debating society. But this is understandable. So much easier to convince yourself you’re up against rotten people than to grapple with the difficult complexities of actual economic, social, or international policy issues.

Am I guilty myself? Actually, I’ve devoted thousands of words to analyzing and critiquing the nitty gritty of Trump administration policies. Explaining my substantive disagreements, like with trade policy, tax policy, immigration, etc. True, I have also shredded his character and behavior (and that of his Republican handmaids). Because that goes to the heart of America’s Trumpian degradation — with huge repercussions for the quality of life of people worldwide.

Even Trump supporters ought to see how awful it is that, just when America was already mired in bitter partisan divisiveness, along comes a president whose actual unarguable moral delinquencies are off the charts. Considering how bad things were already, electing such a man was just asking for it. I was no fan of Obama, but given the venom heaped upon someone of such great personal integrity, what could we expect with a president of zero personal integrity?

And Brooks says “[t]he scandal culture hasn’t ultimately helped one party over the other. It’s just spread a corrosive cynicism that has disabled government altogether.” Recriminations over the Mueller/Russia story will afflict us for a very long time. Another rallying cry for each side. Each will think the other despicable. More poison making American politics — our civic culture — even more badly broken.

How to fix this brokenness should be the key issue for 2020. Fat chance.