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Revisiting John McCain at Home

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on June 30, 2018

When Kelly Sadler, a minor minion in a disgraced White House communications department– said, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” reaction was immediate and furious. While Sadler’s comment was tasteless, insensitive and disrespectful, reaction to her comment was overblown.

For one thing, she is partially right. If McCain is too ill to return to Washington to cast a No vote, his opposition holds no physical weight, only a moral one. It would serve the White House right if Sadler’s remark inspired McCain to come to D.C. for a vote, but I think that is unlikely. No, John McCain is back home with us in Arizona, and likely to remain here. I expect we will be writing reflections about him soon.

What does matter about Sadler’s comment is this: First, it reflects the standards, practices and principles at the top of the organization – President Trump – which are low and meager, indeed. Sadler would not have made such a statement in a principled administration, and if she had, she would have been gone, or at least publically reprimanded.

(As it is, Sadler is going to carry this albatross around for the rest of her career, and perhaps even her obituary, though not at this White House. That may be enough punishment for her in the long run.)

Second, and even worse, precious few Senate Republicans, where and with whom John McCain has served long and honorably, if not always wisely in my view, have spoken publicly in support of their fellow senator and elder statesman, though it’s reported many are furious. They have left John McCain to fight his last battle alone, such is their cowardice and their disgrace.

As a practical political matter, Arizona is bereft of representation in the Senate. McCain is too ill to be there, and the aptly named Senator Flake is a lame duck. Flake has talked a good game since announcing his intention not to seek re-election, but in practice, he’s useless as teats on a boar hog. (The use of animal metaphor and simile is deliberate and apt.)

Thoughts on Events the Week of June 18

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on June 26, 2018

Baby shit hits the fan:  and it is splattering all over the Trump administration, which couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of people.

There is no need to reprise the disgraceful, unconscionable abuses of immigrants and their children that have been going on at our Southern border. It’s been in all the papers. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, and Attorney Jeff Sessions’ application of it, have monopolized the news and shifted public opinion throughout the country as nothing has since Trump was elected and installed his incompetent, xenophobic, bigoted, money grubbing cabinet.

The only silver linings in these despicable events are that: they seem to be shrinking Trump’s base, and, sadly, that they apparently are going to take quite a while to redress, so focus will be kept on them well toward the fall elections.

Those leaving the ship include suburban mothers and decent human beings. Still hanging tough with Trump so far are:

  1. White Supremacists. Motto: Make American white again. Well, it doesn’t have to be America any longer, just so long as it’s white.

To this group I would say, Sorry, but that ship has sailed.

  1. Evangelicals: Motto: We must save these babies from abortion so they can be snatched from their mothers’ arms.

To this group I say: You are the sorriest Christians on the planet.

About these minors taken from their parents and removed across state lines, might some federal law or laws have been broken, like, say, child abduction, child abuse or kidnapping?

And if these children cannot be found and returned to their parents – and there are bound to be at least some such cases – wouldn’t these parents have grounds to sue the federal government for something serious, like, say, child abduction and perhaps black site detention?

I assume that when the Trump administration rescinded the family separation policy, with the gun of public outrage at its head, it did so in hopes this whole thing would then settle down and go away, but I don’t think that’s going to happen soon. There are just too many unsettled issues.

And what is all this costing us, anyway? Not just the obvious costs to our standing in the world and our moral fiber, but actual dollars. I’ll bet it’s a ton.

It was said by some reporters interviewed on MSNBC that Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller had been planning this kind of deterrent strategy for years, long before Trump has been in office, which has been almost a year and a half. If that is the case, the chaos we are seeing now suggests either utter incompetence, or people driven by such xenophobic impulse to have driven forward without thought or care. It’s probably a mixture of both, but either answer alone is distressing.

Update: On Friday, it was learned that the toddler in the now iconic image that triggered such outrage about children being separated from their parents was not actually one of those separated, and Republicans tried to have a field day about this “fake news,” which is ludicrous, but I don’t think anybody is buying it. The toddler, if not a true case, is symbolic of the scandal. I don’t hear any Republicans denying that at least 2,300 children have been separated, which is the salient point.

Remembering Kate Slade: I don’t remember Slade. In fact, I never heard of her until she hanged herself, which was a reminder how out of touch I am with current popular culture. (This is why I never score 100% on the New York Times’ weekend news quiz. It always has a question or two about this kind of stuff.)  I try to keep up, but the pop culture stuff, which is inevitably short lived and ephemeral, just doesn’t seem to register with me anymore. But it is definitely a blind spot in my overall perspective.

North Korea: Speaking of remembering, has anyone heard a word about nuclear negotiations recently? Last time we tuned in, Trump had given up military exercises with South Korea unilaterally to please North Korea, getting nothing return, and we haven’t heard a peep since. Photo op’s over. Time to move on.

Person of Interest:  Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security. Nielsen is the ideal Secretary for the Trump cabinet. She lies like Trump, she is as mean spirited as Attorney General Sessions, she is as stupid as Education Secretary DeVos and Education Secretary Rick Perry, and she is as clueless about her department as HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Like so many Trump loyalists, Nielsen spoke for Trump and then was left twisting in the wind by him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Homeland_Security

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until EPA Director Scott Pruitt is gone.

Book Review – The Stephanie Plum Novels

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on June 22, 2018

I’m about to lay a harsh criticism on the Stephanie Plum mysteries, written by Janet Evanovich, but they are not that bad if you like this sort of thing, so I feel obliged to tell you some good things about them first.

The Stephanie Plum Novels are a typical mystery series, with a protagonist – in this case Stephanie, of course – some continuing characters, a mystery plot or two running simultaneously and sometimes intersecting, some romance and a dollop of sex (there can’t be lot of sex like you find in series with male protagonists like, say, the James Bond novels, or Stephanie would come off as a slut, which she is not). She has a shtick. And, of course, she always gets her man….eventually.

That this is a series is unmistakable, because the titles each include a number in sequence: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly, and so on. And, these books, like all such series, can be numbingly repetitive. The background and shtick has to be explained over again in each installment, because the author never knows which book the reader will pick up first.

Stephanie’s shtick is that she is a bond enforcement agent (bounty hunter), and an accidental one at that. She was an undergarment buyer at a small department store until being laid off. She wheedled a job with her cousin Vinnie, who runs a bonding company.

In other words, Stephanie is a rookie, green as grass. She wouldn’t have lasted long, or perhaps even survived, if it weren’t for two friends and mentors – a police detective to whom she lost her virginity at 18 and loves off and on again, and an alpha-male bounty hunter super star named Ranger, who is her mentor, temptation and occasional indiscretion.

Stephanie lacks some of the killer instincts useful in the bounty hunter trade. She doesn’t like guns – she keeps hers in her cookie jar except on rare occasions, and generally away from her bullets, when she remembers to buy some. Her other useful bounty hunter gear – stun gun, pepper spray, handcuffs – is jumbled up in her purse, not easily accessible when needed, and she doesn’t prepare ahead well for her take-downs.

Evanovich describes Plum as being “incredibly average, and yet heroic, if necessary.” I would inject only if mortally necessary, which it can take her a long time to determine. But Stephanie has a good heart, and a natural ability to attract and accept a number of oddball characters, who over time form a group of friends, posse and support.

These books individually can be very entertaining. Hell, Evanovich has sold a ton of them. I think it is not offensive in this case to state the obvious that these are “women’s books.” Men who like this genre will enjoy them too, but most of the best, funniest and most insightful scenes occur between women, who will appreciate them more. There is a mall scene in the second book, which only women could initiate, and that is one of the funniest I have read in a long time.

Now, here’s the rub. Since Plum’s shtick is that of being a novice bounty hunter, she must make the same beginner mistakes in every sequential volume. After reading eleven volumes and counting, as I have done (don’t ask why), since she hasn’t learned anything, she now comes off as exasperatingly stupid.

How many times can she stand at the door of her FTA (failure to appear) target to take him in, and have him say, “Sure, give me a minute to get my jacket,” her to say, “OK,” and him run out the back door and get away, before she catches on?

How many times can she have her pepper spray or her stun gun in her purse or pocket when approaching an FTA, and not be able to get it out in time when he charges her?

Eleven volumes in, she should have her stun gun in hand, zap her targets the instant he or she opens the door, cuff them and drag them back to jail before they even cone to. She always gets her quarry, but often through just dumb beginner’s luck.

Stephanie Plum can’t learn, and that makes the series for me a frustrating read.

More thoughts on Immigration

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on June 20, 2018

Ross Douthat, the New York Times’ token conservative columnist, wrote some in the NYT Sunday edition something with which I agree, up to a point, and which, like me, he has been advocating for a long time.

(I respect Douthat, even though I seldom agree with his positions. He has a cogent, intellectually consistent personal philosophy and can articulate it clearly. Also, Douthat is capable of creative thinking, which is not to be found among typically ideological conservatives.)

Specifically, Douthat argues to strengthen the E-Verify system and mandate its use for every hiring. He opines this is less cruel than Trump’s current deterrence policy of separating children from their parents. Duh!

Immigration is like the drug trade, or any other classic supply and demand market. There is demand for drugs in the U.S., so people smuggle them in to meet it, at great risk. Likewise, there is a demand for labor (read job opportunities for immigrants) in the U.S., so people smuggle themselves in to meet it, at great risk. Cut off the demand – the jobs – and the supply – the immigrants – declines.

When I wrote above that I agree with Douthat up to a point, I did not mean that he has gone too far. Rather, I mean that he has not gone far enough. It is insufficient to leave it there.

First, there have to be real teeth in the E-Verify mandate. Employers who violate it must pay a heavy price, by which I mean jail, not fines.

Cutting off the supply of job opportunities is easy with a robust E-Verify law (though I would prefer a more robust, technologically advanced national identity card). The reason we don’t have one now is because many employers want the labor and the penalties for violation lie more heavily on the immigrants than the violating employers. Send a few business owners to jail, including some big agribusiness owners, and it will reduce employment opportunities for illegal immigrants to near zero rapidly.

Note: with this done, we won’t need is an expensive border wall. Control of the labor supply will render it superfluous. We can invest the money in national identity card technology.

So, now comes the tough part. We must still come to grips with how much immigration we want, and what kind, decisions that have bedeviled us for years. And, we must come to grips with the workers and their families who are already here, as well as the Dreamers, and children who are piling up at the border as I write. If something isn’t done about the child abuse we are inflicting on those children, President Trump’s prediction will come true. We will end up with a bunch of immigrants who may be socially unfit for our society when he is done with them.

(I had drafted something here about Trump’s intransigence, but it is out of date as of today. He has been, as always, playing to his base, which is among other things, virulently xenophobic. But that base is shrinking, at least at the margins (read suburbs and among mothers), and if Trump couldn’t see it, others in his party could, and took action. (I suspect what we were hearing from Republican Congresspersons in public is far different from what Trump was hearing in private.)

Perhaps this is the time to relate a personal experience. During an extremely acrimonious divorce, two of my children were withheld from me for a brief time – three weeks, maybe four or five; it seemed longer. Fortunately for me, justice prevailed quickly, but the experience was one of the two most painful and agonizing of my life. I can appreciate vividly how those parents whose children were taken from them feel.

Now we’re hearing that some of the parents and their children may never be able to be reunited, almost predictable given the incompetence of the Trump administration. If this is the case, some high ranking members in the administration need to go to jail, maybe for as long as those parents and children are suffering, which would be a long time indeed.

Immigration law is the job of our legislature, which, unfortunately, hasn’t been functioning for almost two decades for any purpose much beyond naming post offices. We must elect people willing and able to resolve this. (Perhaps the one and only bright spot in the Trump presidency is that it may shift the composition of the Legislative branch to the point it will fulfill its function again, but it is still a long shot.)

The solutions to our immigration policy are as obvious to me as I assume the solutions of the xenophobic Trump base are to them, and we are poles apart. But we must thrash this out. If it were easy, anybody could do it. Well, it’s not easy, so it will take capable people, of whom we have too few in Congress today. There are some out there. Let’s sift through the résumés carefully and hire better ones this November. Sadly, solutions may have to wait until then, maybe longer.

 

Reviewing the National Press Club Dinner and other Media Foibles

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on June 19, 2018

As I have written recently, I am very proud of the media these days. They are performing heroically in very difficult but important times. There is little about them of which to complain. Little, but not none.

After the National Press Club Dinner, the whole point of which is to celebrate freedom of speech and the press, many Press Club members were critical, again, of their invited guest comedian – Michelle Wolf – for telling jokes about them. I didn’t watch the dinner, but I went back and listened to Wolf’s roast. It was overall wicked funny stuff, and like all good comedy, contained a lot of truth.

Among the funniest bits to me was when, sensing her audience squirming, Wolf said, “You should have done a lot more research before you got me to do this.”

I am off-put by the hypocrisy of press members complaining about a comedian’s language. With a nod to President Donald Trump, you knew she was a viper tongued wit when you invited her.

I am particularly disappointed in Andrea Mitchell, a generally credible journalist, for saying Wolf owes Sara Huckabee Sanders an apology for what Wolf said about her. Perhaps Mitchell said that because she is afraid Sanders will stop leaking to her. Nobody owes Sanders an apology. Sanders stands into front of the press every day and lies to them through her teeth. And, she is rude, arrogant and condescending doing it. She is of a piece with her administration.

By the way, I have watched a few of those press briefings and the press’ questions are often as lame as the answers are offensive lies.

I think the press club would be better off doing without a professional comedian speaker. Keep the dinner serious and on point. The fact is, the press doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor, and can’t seem to take a joke, even a good one, about themselves. Reminds me of Trump.

And then there is the overwrought coverage of North Korea. The press vacillates between overhyping a possible peace agreement between the U. S. and North Korea and a war between the U.S. and North Korea, like it’s a either or game, when, in fact, neither is going to happen, least of all a war, because it is the last thing either side wants (with the exception of John Bolton).

Kim wouldn’t dare start a war with us, because he knows he would be obliterated. Trump won’t start a war with North Korea, because if his staff or Congress won’t stop him, China will. Trump started this circus himself with his bluster, and he’s riding now in part because the press let him, and now we’re off on this insane farce of a nuclear agreement negotiation.
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Thoughts on Events the Week of June 11

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on June 18, 2018

Singapore Summit: President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met here to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, whatever that means to them, respectively. The spoken and written words at this point mean nothing. Trump’s statement after the brief meeting that the nuclear problem with North Korea was “largely solved,” illustrates just how ludicrously meaningless those words were.

Trump promised us “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.” Kim promised the same thing, as he has a dozen times previously, and reneged every time. He also promised not to steal the towels from the Singapore hotel when he left.

The only way to judge the value of this meeting, and any that may follow, is the actual results, and, from my view, how they compare to the Iran nuclear deal Trump discarded.

Trump announced immediately after the meeting that he was suspending joint military exercises with South Korea – he called them war games and provocative, parroting North Korea’s characterizations. He also stated that he would like to pull down U.S. troops in South Korea, because the cost a lot of money. (I wonder how State and Defense Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis, and National Security Advisor Bolton, feel about this.)

It is patently premature to part with the military exercises, and it would be  pure folly to pull down the troops, much as I too would like to see it eventually, unless and until something really meaningful comes out of the negotiations, and frankly, I don’t think anything sufficiently meaningful will. North Korea is never going to give up its nukes, and we need to understand that and manage the situation accordingly, as we do with Pakistan, another sorry state with nukes.

To make those reductions otherwise would hand South Korea, a functioning, flourishing democracy over to North Korea. At this point, Trump seems prepared to trade two successful, functioning democratic allies – South Korea and Japan – for one totalitarian state. What a deal maker!

If I were Japan, I would quickly acquire nuclear weapons, with the ironic result that there would be nuclear proliferation rather than reduction from Trump’s brilliant negotiating. (Also, Japan might point some of the nukes at us for hanging them out to dry, and I wouldn’t blame them. Just kidding.)

I would also remind South Korean President Moon that he wanted this. I wonder what Moon is thinking about it now that Trump is already giving away the candy…Moon’s candy.

One thought about the summit. There may have been no technical experts or seasoned diplomats at the meeting, but there were clearly experts in stagecraft, which is most important to Trump, and, I suspect, to Kim also. The Trump-Kim Barnum and Bailey Circus, which is all it is right now, was a colorful show.

Correction, or more accurately a comeuppance: I was premature, or more accurately downright uninformed and naïve to think converting the armistice to a peace treaty would be insignificant, as I did last week. Apparently, for diplomatic purposes, it is a real big deal.

Sudden Thought: If not in and around South Korea, perhaps we should be conducting military preparation exercises in Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington, the 13 states that border Canada, to prepare for an attack or invasion, since president says Canada is a national security risk? Let’s face it, our president is a liar and a fool.

Inspector General’s report: In a nutshell, the I.G. report stated the obvious. The Justice Department behaved properly and reached the correct conclusion that Hillary Clinton committed no prosecutable crime, but that James Comey made terribly bad judgements handling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and was insubordinate in discussing them in public.

(FBI agents Peter Strzok and his squeeze Lisa Page also used incredibly bad judgment exercising their First Amendment rights by criticizing, on the company’s email server, a person whose activities they were investigating, although they did nothing improper in the actual investigation. In my view, they should be fired for plain stupidity.)

Comey should also have been fired, but not by Trump. Trump’s firing of Comey was obstruction of Justice, by his own admission. Comey should have been fired by then Attorney General Loretta Lynch the moment he spoke publicly about the investigation in the way he did.

It is my firm belief that Comey, not the Russians, stole the election from Clinton, although the Russians were clearly trying.

There is supreme irony here. If Lynch had fired Comey, Comey wouldn’t have been around for Trump to fire, and the whole Russian special counsel investigation might never have begun.

For the record, despite what Trump has said about this report letting him off the hook regarding Russia, this report had absolutely nothing to do with the Russian investigation and said nothing about it one way or the other. The report was strictly about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Person of Interest:  Paul Manafort. The erstwhile manager of Trump’s presidential campaign is in jail, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Already indicated on several criminal charges and awaiting trial, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson found probable cause Manafort had engaged in witness tampering while out on bail and she revoked it. Manafort can appeal, but I don’t think much of his odds. Good for her, good for us, good for justice. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Manafort)

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until EPA Director Scott Pruitt is gone.

I’ll just note in passing that Texas is the epicenter of the administration’s program of separating children from their parents at the border. And does former Alabama Senator and now Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions really have that many friends in the Senate anymore?

 

Immigration obscenity

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on June 16, 2018

I am confounded at present with one singular question regarding immigration: In what barbaric country, under what family values-avowing administration, led by what sick and twisted xenophobes, would young children be separated from their mothers and fathers upon entering the country? Oh, wait. That’s us. That’s Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.

Sessions says his – not the Democrats – policy is for the purpose of deterrence, and rationalizes this policy with a Bible passage – Romans 13. This passage is, in fact, a ludicrous affirmation of the “divine right of kings.” I thought we had gotten beyond that kind of thinking many centuries ago.

(Just as an aside: during World War II, when we interned Japanese American citizens in prison camps, one of the most shameful and regrettable events in our history, the Japanese American prisoner families were allowed to stay together, at least.)

This policy is obscene. The entire immigration system is obscene. Jeff Sessions is obscene. He is a pig in shit’s clothing. Those people, Sessions included, who are separating children from their parents at the border are committing child abuse. They are the ones who should be separated from their own families and put in one of our detention facilities; I recommend federal prison.

Somewhere in Arizona, I would like to think some redneck, Pro Trump voter woman and mother is saying to her husband, “I don’t care what you say, Bubba, this is just wrong and I’m not voting for this SOB again.”

To the broader point, immigration is an important, complicated and emotional issue for every country. Who gets to come into a country, and why? Who has to stay out? How much immigration should be accepted in total? Every country approaches it differently.

We need immigration for a number of reasons, and our immigration policies are comparatively open. We need unskilled workers to fill jobs our workers don’t want. We need skilled workers for jobs for which we don’t have enough qualified applicants (which is a severe indictment of our education system). Declining birth rate. Humanitarian responsibilities.

We have a long history of ambivalence regarding unskilled workers particularly, and a poor record of dealing with them. Some people want them in to fill needs and keep labor costs down. Some don’t want them in to keep labor costs up, and due to garden variety xenophobia. Because of this dichotomy, our solutions have been schizophrenic. We let immigrants sneak in, but don’t recognize them, and often exploit them.

Things changed after 9/11. We became fearful of terrorist infiltration by immigration, and generally more suspicious of foreigners. Our laws were tightened, and border security increased. This was welcome news to the already xenophobic and nativists among us, but also distressing to those who look on immigration as a good thing for our economy, culture and country. 

I can somewhat understand xenophobic impulses, though not agree with them. I believe that our economic and cultural histories demonstrate that the U.S. has always been the net beneficiary of immigration. And to all you anti-Hispanics out there, I’m sorry, but I love Mexican food.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of June 4

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on June 11, 2018

North Korea: As so often occurs with politicians and media, the news and the hype are two entirely different subjects. The news this week was how astoundingly President Trump insulted and turned his back on not only our dearest allies, but also our cultural roots. Where does Trump think his base’s sense of white supremacy comes from anyway?

The hype was all about the upcoming meeting with North Korea in Singapore next week, assuming the North Korean delegation can find enough change between their sofa cushions to afford a hotel room.

This meeting is historic, because it is a first, and it represents a meeting between the U.S. and an adversary that goes back (1953) even longer than that with Iran (1979), and almost as long as with Cuba (1948). Oh wait, those relations, re-opened by President Obama, are back to adversarial status again, thanks to President Trump. Can we hold a grudge, or what?

Trump loves firsts, but apparently only his own, because he slammed the door the openings to Iran and Cuba out of spite with Obama.

Count me among the most dubious about anything meaningful coming out of this meeting, and those that will likely succeed it, despite however Trump may try to frame it. True progress will have to come another day, far away. Here’s why.

I define meaningful only as anything that meets or exceeds the dashed Iran nuclear deal. By inference, Trump has promised to make a better one with North Korea. I will judge him by that standard (maybe a higher one; NK already has nukes), and there is not a shred of hope that he can meet it. North Korea is not going to give up its nukes any time soon, and certainly not to a buffoon like Trump’s term in office.

I would mind Trump that it was sanctions, led by President Obama’s vigorous diplomatic efforts that brought Iran to the negotiating table. And Obama didn’t loosen those sanctions until he had the deal he wanted, including strong verification clauses.

If Trump starts giving away candy before he has a deal that meets his goal of total, verifiable denuclearization, that he will have failed spectacularly comparted to Obama’s Iran deal. North Korea has already cheated two American presidents this way. If Trump makes the same mistake, he won’t even be able to claim a first, or that he did something no other president could do.

Among the not particularly meaningful results would be converting the armistice between North Korea and us into a peace treaty. It would be symbolic, but change nothing, other than give North and South Korea more space to work on their own domestic relationships.

The G7 Economic Summit: Back to Trump’s treatment of actual allies. Trump offended them all before he came to the meeting, blew his nose on the drapes, diplomatically speaking, while he was there, left early and then reneged on his communiqué agreement after he was safely out of town.

It was a spectacular display of rudeness and stupidity. In other words, typical Trump. In the end, Trump left a very bad taste in the Europe’s mouth as he headed for Singapore to make history and a fool of himself at the hands of the North Koreans and to the delight of China and Russia.

Trump got one thing right. Our Long-term economic future is in Asia, and we should be shifting emphasis there. But that doesn’t mean insulting out large, existing economic trading partners and allies.

Meanwhile, back in Asia, China is pulling Trump’s pants down, North Korea is about to play him for a fool. Allies Japan and South Korea are losing confidence in Trump and considering other options, and I get the sense that Australia has already written off the U.S. and is pivoting completely to China.

Person of Interest:  Larry Kudlow. Used to be an economist, now he just plays one on TV. A life-long advocate of free trade, Kudlow, Trump’s new National Economic Adviser is now defending Trump’s ludicrous tariffs, and even supporting Trump’s insulting of Canada Prime Minister’s Trudeau, calling Trudeau’s remarks a betrayal for speaking truth to power, and saying Trudeau stabbed Trump in the back, somewhat overheated diplomatic language.

But I guess language gets pretty heated when one is concerned about national security,  which is the reason Trump gave for slapping tariffs on Canada, because we are, you know, in imminent danger of an attack or even invasion from our northern neighbor. Please.

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until EPA Director Scott Pruitt is gone.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of May 28

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on June 8, 2018

The Majesty Letter: President Trump’s lawyers, we learned this week, sent a secret letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller making some pretty extreme claims of executive authority.

Briefly, the letter claims Trump can fire anyone he wants in the Executive Branch, including anyone in the Justice Department (probably true), including the Special Counsel (possibly true, but unproven); that he can pardon anyone (true), including himself (doubtful, but untested); and that he can shut off any investigation he wants, including of himself (highly unlikely, but again, untested).

In short, the letter asserts that Trump is above the law, which would make him tantamount to a monarch. I am not a Constitutional scholar, but I have read the document and something about the history of how it was created, and I’m pretty sure that one thing the founding fathers did not want was a monarch. In fact, it was the last thing they wanted, and took pains to prevent via the Constitution.

Trump’s lawyers at the time this letter was written were John Dowd, who subsequently quit in disgust, and Jay Sekulow, a man over his head, who was caught in a lie publicly when he said on TV that Donald Trump, Jr. wrote the infamous letter about the Trump Tower meeting, which the White House later admitted Trump himself had dictated. Real heavy weights.

Giuliani, one of Trump’s current lawyers, has the audacity to support the contentions in this letter. Of course, Giuliani is not really practicing as a lawyer at present, he’s only playing one on TV.  He’s really just a shill for Trump, akin to Strother Martin’s character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a shameless sycophant of the villain.

Nothing yet from Emmett Flood, Trump’s new, actual lawyer, who hasn’t uttered a peep since he came aboard. I can’t help wondering what he must be thinking. I sometimes visualize him hiding in a dark closet, sucking his thumb, holding his baby blanket and wondering how the hell he got into this. I cannot see him defending the claims in this letter.

The publication of this letter seems to have opened the first tiny, thin fissures in the Republican legislator’s stone wall.

Pardons: Trump is said to be obsessed with pardons these days, and it is easy to see why. With pardons, Trump gets to play monarch. It is his one authority under the Constitution unencumbered by checks and balances. He can pardon anyone he wants, however undeserving (such as, say, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio), and nobody can do a damn thing about it.

Except pardon himself, of course. He can’t pardon himself. It’s said that this hasn’t been tested in the courts, but it was tested as a practical matter during the Nixon saga. No court will ever allow it to happen.

So, Trump can exercise his almost universal pardon powers within the Constitution, but not with complete impunity. There are possible political consequences if this power is determined to have been abused.

It’s said that Trump is waving his pardon power around so publicly as a signal to those involved in the Special Counsel investigation, a kind of threat/extortion/promise.

As I understand it, and I’m willing to be corrected, once someone is pardoned and cannot be tried for a crime, then they also cannot plead the 5th, and can be brought before a grand jury and be compelled to testify. So, perhaps it is not the protection for himself Trump thinks it may be.

Sudden Thought: Wouldn’t it be ironic if Trump pardoned all of his friends and got them off, and then found himself in legal doo doo?

Women’s Softball: The attempt for a three-peat national collegiate women’s softball championship by my beloved Oklahoma Sooners’ team ended not with a bang, nor a whimper, but with a total collapse. They were shut out twice by the University of Washington and went home.

There are basically three seasons in softball (sorry OU coach Patty Gasso, three, not four as in football quarters): the regular season, including conference games, the playoffs where the finalists are decided for the Women’s Softball World Series 16 team round robin, and the WCWS itself.

Oklahoma breezed through the regular season, and was undefeated in the Big 12 Conference. OU obliterated three playoff opponents by a combined score of 29-2, and then lost two games to Washington without scoring a single run. (Washington lost the finals to Florida State). This was an astounding performancee for the best run scoring team in women’s softball.

This defeat, on one level, demonstrates how difficult it is in any sport to three-peat. It almost never happens. This time, however, the lady Sooners just really stunk up the place. Next year, girls.

Person of Interest:  MiniBooNE’s researchers. They may have found a fourth – “sterile” neutrino, when it is thought there are only three, which would upset the Standard Model applecart big time.

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until EPA Director Scott Pruitt is gone.

 

What then to do with Rosanne Barr?

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on May 31, 2018

You’ve all seen, heard or read that Rosanne Barr posted a gratuitously racist, Islamophobic tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former Special Advisor to President Barak Obama. Shortly thereafter, ABC issued its own statement critical of, and distancing itself from, Barr’s. Less than an hour later, ABC cancelled her popular TV show.

The cynic in me doubts that ABC made this decision alone; the show was a money maker. I’m sure they hoped their statement would suffice and things would settle down. I’m thinking Disney, ABC’s parent, made the call, and quickly. Good for them.

I’m pretty much an absolutist about free speech, and I am of the opinion that we are often way too politically correct, but I’m glad this happened. This shit has to stop.

Barr exercised her freedom of speech rightly, and so did Disney. Barr’s speech reflected on ABC, and by extension Disney, and they didn’t want to be associated with it. Barr’s speech was free, but irresponsible. Barr can still speak. Maybe some other media outlet will pick up the show. Otherwise, with her rant, Barr put a whole lot of people – the entire cast and crew of her show – out of work.

Racism is a roach under our refrigerator. It’s always there, sadly, but usually stays in the dark, self-aware of its repugnancy. In the current environment, racists have been emboldened to come out into the light.

To be clear, this new era of blatant racism was not caused by President Trump. He has just exploited it, though he obviously is one himself. The flame was ignited when President Barak Obama was elected.

Seeing a black man in the White House sparked a backlash among this kind, and, to my utter disgust, within the Republican Congress. It led to the most disgraceful eight years of legislative malfeasance in my lifetime, including complete opposition and obstruction of any Obama initiatives, including ones the Republicans had championed until Obama agreed with them, in which case the Republicans opposed them.

The most egregious, odious obstruction was the refusal of Republican Senators Charles Grassley and Mitch McConnell to give Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court – Merrick Garland – an excellently qualified choice – a hearing, allowing the court to limp along rather than do their duty, as they ran out the clock on Obama’s term. These guys’ action was as blatantly racist as that of any white supremacist scum in the land.

I want to see racism wither completely, but at present I’d just settle for seeing it out of our government, to start. It is going to take people like ABC and/or Disney calling it out until, if we cannot entirely erase it, we can get it back under the refrigerator.