Monday, January 16, 2017

Proud To Be Maladjusted

Originally posted on January 17, 2011

Over the weekend, I grabbed from my bookshelf A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., and literally dusted it off.  I flipped through it looking for something profound with which to pay tribute to the day.  There was so much eloquence to choose from, so many familiar, but nevertheless timeless speeches and essays defending the morality of non-violence and demanding racial justice, social justice and human rights. As I leafed through the book, I kept returning -- as Dr. King did -- to the theme of embracing "maladjustment;" refusing to be comfortable in an unjust world and insisting on action to achieve a better one.

In the summer of 1957, King addressed students at UC Berkeley, where he spoke of being maladjusted:
Now we all should seek to live a well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.  But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted.  I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination.  I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule.  I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism.  I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things. . . . God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change the world and our civilization.  And then we will be able to move from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.
Dr. King reiterated this theme in 1958, in an article he wrote for a Christian publication.  The article criticizes churches for failing to be more vocal in denouncing racism.  He stated "it may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the flaring noisiness of the so-called bad people, but the appalling silence of the so-called good people . . . .  What we need is a restless determination to make the ideal of brotherhood a reality in this nation and all over the world."  King then reprised the notion of being maladjusted, almost verbatim from the speech he gave in Berkeley.

And then, in 1961, Martin Luther King gave the commencement address at Lincoln University, in which he talked about "The American Dream," "a dream where men of all races, of all nationalities and of all creeds can live together as brothers."  (I'm sure he meant sisters too.)  King urged the students to "not be detached spectators, but involved participants, in this great drama that is taking place in our nation and around the world."  He concluded this remarkable speech with many of the same words on being maladjusted that he used earlier: 
Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature, and modern psychology has a word that is used, probably more than any other.  It is the word maladjusted.  This word is the ringing cry of modern child psychology.  Certainly all of us want to live a well-adjusted life in order to avoid the neurotic personality.  But I say to you, there are certain things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted.

If you will allow the preacher in me to come out now, let me say to you that I never did intend to adjust to the evils of segregation and discrimination.  I never did intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry.  I never did intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.  I never did intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.  And I call upon all men of good will to be maladjusted because it may well be that the salvation of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.

So let us be maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across centuries, "Let justice run down like waters and righteousness like a might stream."  Let us be as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist half slave and half free.  Let us be as maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could look into the eyes of the men and women of his generation and cry out, "Love your enemies.  Blequss them that curse you.  Pray for them that despitefully use you."

I believe that it is through such maladjustment that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.  That will be the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God almighty, we are free at last."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Watergate On Fire -- Time For A New Metaphor

It can't be a coincidence that the Watergate office caught fire on the same day that Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he: (1) bullied the press; (2) sidestepped questions about whether his staff had contact with Russia during the campaign; (3) refused again to release his federal tax returns; and (4) provided no meaningful response to his myriad conflicts of interest.

As we know, the original Watergate scandal involved the bugging and break-in of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee -- which Trump, of course, would have blamed on the DNC -- and its cover up, as part of a vast criminal conspiracy by the Nixon Administration.  Ever since, any political scandal gets a "gate" slapped on it (e.g., IranContragate, Debategate, Travelgate, Bridgegate).  But we are entering a whole new era of political malfeasance.  It is time for a new metaphor.

The level of corruption and dishonesty to be anticipated by the incoming Trump Administration is certainly reminiscent in many ways of Nixon's.  Nixon famously said it was not illegal if the president does it -- although he said that after his resignation, not at the start of his presidency.  Trump's spokesman reiterated today that by definition, Trump as president could not have a conflict of interest. During the 1968 campaign, Nixon colluded with the South Vietnamese to undermine the Paris Peace Talks.  During the 2016 campaign, evidence suggests that Trump colluded with the Russians and certainly used information obtained by Russian hacking. Trump's thin-skin, need to be liked and vindictiveness harkens back to Nixon's instability and paranoia -- and his enemies list.  Then there's Nixon's distrust of the press which his Vice President referred to as "nattering nabobs of negativism."  For Trump, there's the more succinct: "fake news."

But Trump's disregard of the truth and the rule of law will make Nixon's conduct look pedestrian.  He lies every time he opens his mouth or sends a tweet.  He is admittedly still discussing financial deals with foreign billionaires.  He is not divesting himself of his business empire or setting up a blind trust, but rather leaving it to his sons to run -- a maneuver designed to enrich his family and maintain his wealth without coming close to resolving ethical, legal and constitutional concerns. 

What makes this potentially far worse than Watergate is that when Nixon's conduct came to light there were principled Republicans that were willing to stand up, challenge, investigate -- and ultimately to vote to impeach him.  There is no such thing as a principled Republican anymore.  The GOP is ignoring the alarm raised by ethics experts from both parties about Trump's unprecedented and substantial conflicts.  They hope to push through all of Trump's cabinet nominees without proper vetting of their potential conflicts.  And they do not want to even explore the possibility of Russian interference in the election and the Trump campaign's role in it.  The clear signal from the Republican-controlled Congress is that it will completely abdicate its role as a co-equal branch of government to serve as a check and balance on the Executive Branch.

Of course the Watergate caught on fire.  It no longer has meaning.  Trump Tower is the new Watergate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In Like A Lion . . .

Watching Obama's farewell address, I was brought back to eight years ago when I was in a Nevada hotel, weeping with joy while watching his acceptance speech.  I can recall the enormous relief that the Bush nightmare was over.  I was filled with hope and inspiration.  I was thrilled for my daughters that this brilliant, eloquent, extraordinarily decent, liberal-leaning African American would be the first president they would experience.  Tonight was the bookend.  And I wasn't weeping. 

Instead, I was filled with anticipatory dread of the coming inauguration.  I was infuriated that the qualities that have made Obama such a remarkable president -- his dignity and grace in the face of unrelenting obstruction, hatred and racism, his unabashed faith in the American people despite their congenital apathy and stupidity and his optimism about the resilience of our democracy despite the ascendance  of "President" Trump -- were preventing him from using the time since the election, including this last opportunity, to channel our outrage and do whatever is in his waning but still formidable power to mitigate the impact of the Trumpocaplypse.  (See The Audacity of a Lame Duck)

Jesus, Barry, the Republican Party undermined much of your presidency, culminating in a stolen Supreme Court seat.   Donald fucking Trump will become the next President, threatening your entire legacy, in large part because of Russian interference and because the FBI Director selectively disclosed meaningless, redundant -- but explosive -- information about Hillary Clinton's emails while refusing to declassify truly significant -- and explosive -- information about Trump's connections with Russia.

But for Obama, what is paramount, what is the "hallmark of democracy" is the "peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected President to the next" and ensuring the "smoothest possible transition."  But this assumes, of course, that the next president was "freely elected," and the more we learn, the more that is called into question. 

In what feels like an alternative universe, Obama was calmly bidding us adieu while we have not even digested the bombshell report that the FBI was in possession of credible information that the Russians had compromising "personal" and financial information about Trump and that Trump's campaign had continuing contacts with Russian operatives with whom they exchanged information during the campaign, i.e., TREASON.  Obama said nothing about it.  He said nothing about putting any mechanism in place -- like requesting the appointment of a Special Counsel -- to assure us that after Trump is inaugurated, the investigation won't be buried.

That's not to say that there weren't some great moments in the speech.  I particularly found compelling Obama's enumeration of the factors that are corrosive to our democracy -- economic inequality ("While the top 1 percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties have been left behind"), racial division ("If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves"), and the refusal to find a common baseline of facts (While we should "argue about the best approach to solve the problem [of climate change], to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country.")

But it was not enough to simply tell us in the most general of terms that we as "citizens must . . . guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are," that we "can't take our democracy for granted," and, if something needs fixing, we need to organize or run for office ourselves.  That might work during normal times, but these aren't normal times.  We need to fight, protest, resist and oppose all things Trump -- and Obama should be at the forefront as we do so.

Our values are already weakening.  Jeff Sessions, a racist with a proven record of hostility against voting rights, abortion, the LGBTQ community and immigrants is going to be our next Attorney General.  Donald Trump and his posse are poised to profit financially from his presidency and will be completely marred by conflicts of interest that the Republican majority will ignore.  And Trump appears to be compromised by Russia.  Obama said nothing about these factors that will be so corrosive to our democracy.  And he said nothing to the Democrats in Congress about the unified opposition they must forge.

I've written before about Obama's strengths.  (See Great President or the Greatest President)  It should go without saying that the contrast between him and his predecessor and his successor couldn't be more stark.  I will miss his intelligence, thoughtfulness, integrity and fundamental decency enormously.  Still, there are times for decency and times for rising up against indecency.  This is a time for the latter.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ethical Republican Is An Oxymoron

My philosophy professor in college, Richard Sugarman, found it ironic that the government had to have an Ethics Department.  It has been a very long time but if I can correctly recall, his view was that all government institutions should embody ethical conduct and that Ethics should not be separate and distinct -- much less, in a separate building -- from the rest of the government.  (Sugarman, I learned recently, was very close to Bernie Sanders and was the one who convinced him initially to run for Mayor of Burlington)

Well, the Republicans don't merely want to keep Ethics separate and distinct from the operations of government.  They want to remove it from public discourse altogether.  They want to reduce it to at most a procedural nicety -- a technicality -- rather than a fundamental aspect of democracy.  In essence, they don't just want to isolate Ethics in its own building, they want to tear the building down. 

Indeed, the House Republicans, as their first act of the new Congress, voted (in secret) to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.  That office was created in 2008, to address the culture of corruption plaguing the House, most notably the bribery scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After being deluged by angry calls from constituents (as well as a Trump tweet that merely questioned the timing and optics but not the principle of eliminating the office's independence) the Republicans reversed course and put the proposal on hold.  

Meanwhile, the Republicans in the Senate are pushing for confirmation of Trump's cabinet nominees before most of them submitted complete financial disclosure forms and had them properly vetted or cleared background checks.  This is particularly troubling given that most of the candidates are enormously wealthy and have business ties that raise serious potential conflicts.  Republicans, nevertheless, have snubbed the Office of Government Ethics, ignoring the concerns of its Ethics Director, who wrote Democratic senators, “I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.” In contrast to his insistence on completed background checks and financial disclosures from Obama's cabinet nominees, Chief Hypocrite and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the Democrats demand that Trump's nominees should be fully vetted before confirmation hearings commence as nothing more than ""little procedural complaints" that "are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate.”

And then, of course, there is Trump himself.  His lack of transparency is staggering.  He has failed to provide his federal tax returns or complete financial disclosure of his business relationships.  It appears that he will do little to divest himself of his business interests beyond cancelling a few international deals and dissolving some shell companies.  As the AP reported, "he continues to own or control some 500 companies that make up the Trump Organization, creating a tangle of potential conflicts of interest without precedent in modern U.S. history."  His children have been involved in the transition team despite their deep involvement in their father's businesses as well as their own.  And most recently, Trump named his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior advisor.  Putting aside whether the spirit, if not the letter, of the federal anti-nepotism law is violated, this comes a day after the New York Times reported about a China development deal that Kushner has in the works -- one of a myriad of conflicts of interest with regard to Kushner's extensive business holdings. 

The principle that those in power should act ethically and that the American people have a right to know whether they are acting without financial or other interests that might cloud their objectivity and conflict with their duty to the country is fundamental to public trust and democratic rule. This is not a "little procedural complaint." And it should really not be a partisan issue.  But it is.

Republicans have made clear with their unprecedented obstruction of President Obama's initiatives, their threats to shut down the government and brinksmanship with regard to the debt ceiling, with their theft of a Supreme Court seat and refusal to hold hearings on lower court and other nominees, that they do not care about good governance.  They do not care about democracy and democratic institutions as long as they hold power.  They do not care whether the people have faith in the government because voter cynicism and apathy reduces voter turnout and helps them to maintain that power.  And they have now shown that they do not care about the ethical behavior of Republican nominees and have no qualms about the potential for financial self-dealing and unrelenting conflicts of interest of Donald Trump, his family and the basket of deplorables he has chosen for his Administration. 

How can Democrats meaningfully question much less vote on any nominee without having full disclosure of their financial interests and resolution of any conflicts, as well as a comprehensive compilation of their prior speeches, statements and policy positions?  How can Democrats vote on any bill when they do not know whether the policymakers stand to gain financially from its passage?  They can't.  And they shouldn't. 

The Democrats must not treat the Republican Party's disregard of ethics as politics as usual. Contact your Senators and demand that they use every possible procedural maneuver to delay confirmation hearings -- and votes -- until nominees have been fully vetted. Contact your Senators and Representatives and demand that they categorically oppose all Republican initiatives until their leaders disclose and divest themselves of their conflicts of interest.  This is not normal.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dust Off The Constitution And Fight Back

Rev. Dr. William Barber II:  "Is there a lawyer in the house?"
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
-- Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again
How many lawyers does it take to fight, resist and oppose the national -- indeed, global -- nightmare that is Donald Trump?  And how do you do it?  Well, the first way to deal with a nightmare is to wake up.  And more than 1000 of us got a wakeup call on Friday at a remarkable Strategic Engagement Conference at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco

The breadth of the panel discussions reflect the scope of the dangers posed by a Trump Administration.  Virtually every aspect of social justice is at risk.  The topics included hate crimes and the rise of the white nationalist right, the government targeting of the Muslim community, immigrant rights, the LGBTQ backlash, protecting people with disabilities, criminalization of people of color, reproductive rights, combatting domestic and sexual violence, worker rights, and environmental justice.

The brilliant Dahlia Lithwick observed the inability of the media and the public to focus on more than the two or three of the most outrageous things Trump does every day, and argued that we cannot allow his scattershot approach to communication distract us from taking note and challenging all aspects of his presidency. She urged us to look beyond our narrow interests and "show up for all of it." 

Indeed, while we all have our areas of expertise and particular interests, it is essential that we realize how interconnected our communities are.  An attack on immigration rights is an attack on all vulnerable populations from the LGBTQ community to those who are medically at-risk.  An attack on the Muslim community is an attack on all religious groups.  An attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on the poor, on people of color and on undocumented immigrants.  And so on.

The mighty Charles Blow made an important distinction between resistance and opposition.  Resistance is critical, but it is a negative position.  As he put it in a recent column, "You need to augment your outrage with actions that are affirming, behaviors that reinforce principles and values."

Of course, this goes for more than just the legal community.  There is much to do and many ways to do it.  We need to protest, starting with the Women's March On Washington and the concurrent marches in other cities around the country the day after the inauguration.  We need to donate to programs that are at risk and to organizations that will be taking on the fight to protect them.  We need to volunteer for those organizations.  We need to stay informed and remain vigilant.  We need to contact our local, state and national representatives over and over and over again.

In an audacious and powerful brew of scripture, poetry and legal theory, the Reverend Dr. William Barber II delivered the keynote address, demanding: "Get up from your bad feelings from November 9th, dust off your Constitution and fight back!"  In closing, he quoted virtually the entirety of Langston Hughes' Let America Be America Again, and then asked:
Is there a lawyer in the house that will work to ensure that America will be?
Is there a lawyer in the house that will take every demagogue and despot to court and stand on the Constitution?
Is there a lawyer in the house that will not give up on the soul of this Democracy?
Is there a lawyer in the house that will stand on what is right and worry more about justice than a judgeship?
Is there a lawyer in the house?
If there is, than American will be.
I urge those of you in the legal community to sign up at this website to volunteer for some of the organizations that will doing just that:  click here   https://allies.lieffcabraser.com/

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Democrats Need To Fight For The Supreme Court; Republicans Need To Bork Themselves

Republicans invariably attempt to excuse their obstruction on judicial appointments by claiming that the Democrats started it when President Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court thirty years ago.  They claim that the Democrats treatment of Bork initiated the partisan break from traditional norms that gave deference to presidents on their Supreme Court nominations.  The reality is that it was Reagan's choice of Bork -- a radical jurist whose views on the federal government's role in protecting civil rights, voting rights and reproductive rights were far outside the mainstream -- that was the problem. Even so, Democrats did not filibuster Bork's nomination; he was afforded a full, if incredibly contentious, confirmation hearing, after which six Republicans voted with the Democrats to reject him. 

Reagan's subsequent nominees -- Justices Kennedy (who was nominated after Bork's defeat) and Scalia -- were confirmed unanimously.  And even after the Democrats regained control of the Senate, the first President Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas (to replace Thurgood Marshall, no less) was confirmed despite Thomas's extreme conservatism, well-founded and disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and a thin judicial resume.  Thomas won by a painfully slim 52–48 vote, with the help of 11 Democrats.  And Samuel Alito, the choice of the second President Bush to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, and a justice probably farther to the right than Scalia and Thomas, was confirmed despite enough Democratic Senators voting against him to have successfully filibustered and prevented an "up or down" vote. 

You see, the Democrats compromise and operate within conventional norms -- even if it is to the detriment of their Party and in contravention of their political principles.  Republicans?  Not so much.

It has been roughly 300 days since President Obama called the Republicans' bluff and nominated not a left-leaning progressive to the Supreme Court but, rather, Merrick Garland -- a centrist with a reputation for fairness, civility and following the rule of law.  Judge Garland was someone GOP leaders agreed would be acceptable until Obama nominated him.  Then this unassailable jurist was unable to muster even the traditional courtesy meetings with Republican Senators much less confirmation hearings or a vote. 

Ignoring the fact that Obama had almost a year left in his second term when Garland was nominated, Republicans contended that the next president should decide who should fill the Supreme Court vacancy created when Justice Scalia left the building, as it were.  This argument had no basis in history or logic or convention, but they stuck to it.  Well, they stuck to it until it appeared that Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency, when such Republican hypocrites stalwarts as John McCain and Ted Cruz began arguing that the Court didn't really need a ninth justice after all.  Unwittingly or not, they revealed the Republican plan to refuse to allow Clinton -- or any Democrat for that matter -- to appoint the next justice. 

It seems that Republicans believe that the third, purportedly co-equal branch of government belongs to them.  For Republicans, this is apparently akin to the legal principle of adverse possession -- where one acquires title to property simply by virtue of being in possession of it for a certain number of years.  The Supreme Court has firmly been in conservative hands ever since President Nixon replaced members of the Warren Court with the likes of Warren Burger and William Rehnquist.  And they intend to keep it that way.

Republican ownership of the Court, of course, has now been made far easier not only by the election of Donald J. Trump, but also because the Republicans kept their majority in the Senate.  Thus, their unprecedented hostage taking of Justice Scalia's seat has paid off.  Not only will Trump get to nominate Scalia's successor, but he will likely get a chance to fill additional seats.  Justice Ginsburg is 82, Kennedy is 79 and Breyer is 78.  Trump, if not impeded, could have the opportunity not only to restore the 5-4 conservative majority that existed before Scalia's passing, with the occasionally reasonable Justice Kennedy swinging the other way, but to cement an unequivocal radical right wing majority on the Court for a generation or more.

The consequences for civil rights, voting rights and LGBT rights, for women's reproductive health and health care reform, for environmental regulations and Wall Street regulations, for consumers and unions, for gun control and campaign finance reform, for criminal justice and social justice could not be more bleak.

Assuming President Obama will not act against type and engage in some razzle-dazzle maneuver to put Garland on the bench by, for example, declaring that the Republicans have waived its advise and consent duty or using his recess appointment power, what are the Senate Democrats (actually 46 Democrats and 2 Independents) to do? 

Glad you asked. 

Democrats need to take the hard-line position that by refusing to hold hearings and vote on the Garland nomination, Republicans have stolen a Supreme Court vacancy to which they are not entitled.  Their bad faith is not only evidenced by the unprecedented nature of their obstruction but is proven by their comments suggesting they would never allow a Democratic president to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that could tip the balance of the Court. 

In light of this unconscionable conduct, Democrats must use every procedural move in their arsenal to fight, delay, block, obstruct and oppose whoever Trump nominates to the Court.  They should threaten to filibuster any nominee unless and until Republicans vote to confirm Merrick Garland for Scalia's seat.  Republicans could vote to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, but that is something they are loathe to do because it would give a Democratic president and Senate majority of the future the power to select -- God forbid -- liberal justices to the high court.

Whether or not Republicans do away with the filibuster, Democrats need to mount an aggressive, vigorous and well-coordinated attack on Trump's nomination(s).  They must use the confirmation hearings as a forum for a meaningful national discussion on what this Country is about.  Do a majority of Americans really prefer unfettered corporate power and ever-greater concentration of wealth, onerous restrictions on women's reproductive health, and fewer legal remedies for consumers, workers and victims of discrimination?  This was the discourse that should have dominated the presidential election but was lost in the muck of email servers, tweet storms and fake news. 

After the Republicans unabashedly stated they would obstruct the Garland nomination, I naively thought that the ideological balance of the Supreme Court would become a critical campaign issue that would greatly benefit Democrats running for Senate and for President.  As with so many assumptions (I thought climate change would be important too), I was wrong.  The only voters who seemed to care about the Supreme Court were the conservatives who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned and unrestricted gun rights affirmed. 

But the election is over and the fate of Supreme Court -- and the Constitution -- is no longer theoretical.  It is up to Democrats to forcefully and cogently articulate what is at stake, e.g., everything.  And it is up to us to make sure that they do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Keeping Track Of Trump's Multi-Faceted Perfidy

Every morning, before I leave for work, I do a quick check whether I have my wallet, keys, phone, chapstick and hanky.  It is a habit that has become second nature.  In girding for the Trump Administration, it seems to me we need a similar kind of system so that we can keep track of -- and not neglect -- every offensive and horrifying aspect of his presidency.  This also should become second nature.

But it won't be easy.  Trump's strategy seems to be to bombard us with so much craziness that it is virtually impossible to focus on any one thing.  Governing by whack-a-mole.  As soon as the public zeroes in on one outrage, he moves on to another and then another, so that the first one is forgotten.   Case in point:  when was the last time you heard politicians or pundits evince concern over Trump's selection of Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, as his chief advisor.  That was so last month.  With the more recent cascade of horrifying appointments, financial entanglements with foreign governments, bullying  tweets and revelations about Russia, Trump's racism is receding from the public discourse. 

But we can't let it.  We can't normalize the madness.  We can't lose sight of what unprecedented and dangerous territory we are in.  Every day we should be asking each of the following questions: 

(1) what has Trump done that is racist (including maintaining a white nationalist advisors) or undermines the rights and dignity of people of color;
(2) what has Trump done that is misogynist or that undermines the rights and dignity of women -- including reproductive health and privacy;
(3) what has Trump done that is homophobic or that undermines the rights and dignity of the LGBT community;
(4) what has Trump done that is anti-Islam or anti-Semitic or that undermines the rights and dignity of non-Christians;
(5) what has Trump done to undermine efforts to combat climate change and promote environmental health;
(6) what has Trump done to offend our allies or antagonize our adversaries;
(7) what has Trump done to quell dissent, threaten the media or bully individuals or organizations that question his policies or express negative views about him;
(8) what has Trump done to enrich himself or his family;
(9) what has Trump not done to address his myriad conflict of interests and financial entanglements;
(10) what has Trump done that is ignorant or deranged or evidence that he is unqualified to hold public office;
(11)  what has Trump done to consolidate power and undermine government and civic institutions
(12) what has Trump done that is treasonous, violates the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or basic human rights or that otherwise veers towards demagoguery and fascism.

This is, sadly, a work in progress.  What have I missed? 

Monday, December 12, 2016

From Russia With Trump: Orange Is The New Red

“No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.”  -- Donald Trump during the third presidential debate, October 19, 2016
During those halcyon pre-election days of summer, I wondered whether Trump's Putin fetish and Russian connections would not only be problematic to Democrats but would prove to be an anathema to Republicans who, we all know, love a good Cold War and hate a good Communist.  (Has Red Donald Finally Gone Too Far For The GOP?)

At that time, the bill of particulars was already pretty damning:

1.  Trump repeatedly praised Putin as a leader, alternatively stating that he knows him, has a relationship with him, and never met him.
2.  Trump reportedly relied on Russian capital to prop up his businesses, the extent of which would likely be revealed by tax returns that he refused to release.
3.  Trump supporters eliminated from the GOP party platform support for providing lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine.
4.  Trump's campaign manager had been a lobbyist for several pro-Putin clients, including a deposed pro-Russian Ukraine president.
5.   Trump appeared to have legitimized Russia's seizure of Crimea, contending that the people there actually welcomed it.
6.  Trump stated that he would not necessarily defend NATO countries if they were attacked by Russia, in direct violation of our heretofore unquestioned security commitments.
7.  After Russia hacked the DNC, Trump invited Russia to intervene in a United States presidential election by "finding" Hillary Clinton's missing emails and disseminating them.

Let me repeat that last one.  After Russia hacked the DNC, Trump invited Russia to intervene in a United States presidential election by "finding" Hillary Clinton's missing emails and disseminating them.

Of course, as we came to learn, the Republicans and a wide enough swath of the electorate were not only unconcerned about voting for an erratic, grossly ill-informed, racist creep but did not care that they were also voting for someone who might be an erratic, grossly ill-informed Russian stooge.

After the election, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov revealed that  “there were contacts” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, and that  “quite a few” members of Trump’s team “ha[d] been staying in touch with Russian representatives” before the election.

More recently, Trump announced his choice for Secretary of State -- the CEO of ExxonMobil -- whose key qualification besides being a wealthy Trump supporter appears to be his close connection to Vladimir Putin.

And, finally, we have the belatedly-reported assessment of the CIA that not only did Russia interfere with the election but did so in order to help Trump get elected. 

This is some serious shit that demands investigation at the highest levels of government.  Unfortunately, the highest levels of government are soon to be controlled completely by Republicans, and Republicans only care about investigations that will undermine Democrats and help Republicans.  As they have shown over the past eight years of obstructing all things Obama and investigating all things Clinton, and over the last few weeks of kowtowing to all things Trump no matter how much he lies, tweets and enriches himself, Republicans are always willing to put the interests of their party over the integrity of democratic rule.  Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his cohorts refused to permit a pre-election bipartisan statement about the CIA's assessment because it would hurt Republicans.

So the Republican leadership will pay (and already have paid) lip service to the need to get to the bottom of Russia's role.  But don't be fooled.  They will do as little as politically possible.  They will keep secret as much as possible.  They will narrow the inquiry as much as possible so that it will avoid the key question of the Trump campaign's role.  They will control as much of the investigation as possible by refusing to appoint a bipartisan select committee and instead rely on what McConnell describes as "inquiries ... through normal committee channels." 

Democrats need to demand more.  They should threaten to filibuster every Trump appointment pending an expedited but broad and meaningful investigation.  President Obama needs to demand more.  He should request the Justice Department immediately appoint a Special Counsel to conduct an independent investigation.  The Electoral College electors need to demand more.  They should refuse to vote until they are fully briefed on the investigations' findings.  And we need to demand more too. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Real Or Fake News: Former Met Manager On Short List To Become Ambassador To Japan

I've become pretty good at distinguishing between real news and fake news.  Child pornography ring run out of a D.C. pizza parlor by Hillary Clinton: fake.  Brazen financial self-dealing, petty tweets designed to stifle dissent, and appointments of deplorable racists, misogynists, and homophobes by Trump: all too real.  But every now and then a real news item appears that seems implausible anywhere but the bizarro world we now inhabit.

On the short list for the job of ambassador to Japan is former Met manager, Bobby Valentine.  Valentine guided an over-achieving Mets team to the playoffs in 1999 and to the World Series in 2000.  While important to me and other Met fans, I don't think that is why he is under consideration.  And he was not known for being particularly diplomatic on the field.  On the contrary, he was intense, short-fused and abrasive, frequently arguing with umpires and known for insulting players. 
 
Of course, he did manage a team in Japan -- the Chiba Lotta Marines -- for seven years.  I suppose that's good enough for Trump.  Indeed, it is far more relevant experience than most of Trump's horrifying choices for high-level posts.

Still, if Trump was going to look to the baseball world for an appointment, I would have thought he would have picked someone whose offensive behavior on twitter rivals his own -- Curt Schilling

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Coping With Post-Traumatic Election-Induced Stress Disorder

I am very slowly working my way through the five steps of grieving (see Five Stages of Trump), mostly still toggling between denial and anger.  It is impossible to move forward when every day brings a new trigger -- another trifecta of Trump madness:  something dishonest, something corrupt and something unhinged.  Meanwhile, the Republican establishment that before the election tried to gingerly distance itself from this vulgar talking yam is now seemingly unperturbed by his blatant lies and myriad conflicts of interest.  And then there are the daily announcements of high-level appointments. Talk about a basket of deplorables -- racists, homophobes, conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers and misogynists, with a disturbing number of generals and few with any conceivably relevant experience.

And so I continue to obsess about what went wrong and who to blame.  Topping the list remains FBI Director James Comey, who should be under investigation by a Special Counsel to determine whether he violated the Hatch Act.  There are the Russian hackers perhaps abetted by the Trump campaign -- another subject worthy of a Special Counsel investigation.  The feckless mainstream media that equated Clinton's use of a private email server with Trump's exponentially more dishonest and offensive behavior deserves special condemnation.  Then there is the lethal combination of a conservative Supreme Court that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and the under-resourced Department of Justice that failed to rigorously investigate voter suppression in key regions.  There are the assholes who found Clinton not politically pure enough and so decided to throw away their vote on a third party candidate or not vote at all.  Last, but certainly not least, is the arrogance of the Clinton campaign that committed malpractice by failing to pour resources into the states that they needed to win while wasting time and money on states that didn't matter. 

However, I do not share the common wisdom that heaps blame on Clinton's failure to meaningfully address the concerns of the working class and criticizes the Democratic Party's reliance on identity politics.  The former is only true if "working class" is defined to exclude women and people of color.  And "identity politics" -- which I suppose means a focus on racial justice, gender equality, humane immigration policies and LGBT rights -- is inextricably intertwined with any fundamental notion of social justice and must remain the key pillar of progressive politics.

Derek Thompson astutely writes in The Atlantic that Clinton actually spoke forcefully about the needs of workers and the dignity of work, and she provided concrete proposals, including "the most comprehensively progressive economic platform of any presidential candidate in history—one specifically tailored to an economy powered by an educated workforce."  As Thompson points out, the problem was not that the white working class failed to hear her message, but that it did -- and that it rejected her vision for a pluralistic society.  What this election showed was, once again, any "reasonable working class platform" that includes, as it must, policies designed to benefit the non-white working class -- will lead to the disaffection of the white majority. 
The long-term future of the U.S. involves rising diversity, rising inequality, and rising redistribution. The combination of these forces makes for an unstable and unpredictable system. Income stagnation and inequality encourage policies to redistribute wealth from a rich few to the anxious multitudes. But when that multitude includes minorities who are seen as benefiting disproportionately from those redistribution policies, the white majority can turn resentful.
But the lesson isn't that progressives should turn away from the goal of a pluralistic social democracy in order to co-opt white nativist sentiment.  After all, let's not forget that Clinton did garner more than 2 1/2 million votes than her opponent.  Or the reality that the country is slowly but inexorably getting younger, less white and more progressive.  And as Thompson concludes: 
Rising diversity isn’t going away. Income inequality isn’t going away. Support for redistribution isn’t going away. For liberals, pluralist social democracy is the project of the future, and any alternative falls somewhere between xenophobic and amoral.
Sure, this strategy is going to alienate many in the white working class.  That just means we need to energize and organize now and do a better job of getting out the fucking vote next time.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Media Needs To Wake The Fuck Up

Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greatest truths:  of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion.  Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument must be made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal.  It does not have to be like this.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The New Yorker, Dec. 2, 2016.
The frustration, grief and horror that gnaw at me incessantly since the election is exacerbated by the sense that, as a Trump surrogate said, “there’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”  We are, indeed, traveling to another dimension, folks, one that, as Rod Serling would put it, is "a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind."  But the media is failing to grasp that we are in a dangerous twilight zone between light and shadow.  Alarmingly, it is normalizing what is not normal.  It has quickly adapted to the new fact-free reality by reverting back to the failed dynamic that got us here in the first place -- both sides do it, compartmentalizing, and prizing compromise as a worthy end in itself.  

This is captured perfectly in Anderson Cooper's recent interview of  Elizabeth Warren, when he asked her if she was willing to work with the Trump administration.  Warren replied that it would depend on the road the administration takes:  "if they engage in Islamophobia, racism, and other forms of hatred, then I will not support that."  Cooper responded, "Okay putting the hate stuff aside, you mean you won't do an infrastructure bill?"

"Putting the hate stuff aside"?  That is like asking opponents of Mussolini, "putting the fascist stuff aside, you mean you won't support his efforts to get the trains to move on time?" 

We should not be compartmentalizing Trump's erratic tweet storms, his assaults on the Bill of Rights, his nativist, anti-semitic, racist, anti-Islam enabling and rhetoric, his failure to provide his tax returns, his myriad conflicts of interest and self-dealing, his irresponsible lies, his failure to accept intelligence briefings and his casually dangerous interactions with foreign leaders.   It is all of one piece -- the building blocks for the creation of a cult of personality that poses a grave threat to our democracy.

But, ok, let's put aside the hate stuff and talk about that infrastructure proposal. It is not an infrastructure bill in the traditional sense of government funding of projects that will create jobs and spur the economy.  It is an attempt to privatize infrastructure building -- a tax giveaway to corporations with unfettered opportunities for corruption and profit.  And since Trump still refuses to disclose his business entanglements and tax returns, it cannot be known whether he and his family will benefit from such a bill.  None of this was revealed in a recent NPR interview with a leading Democrat.  The interviewer instead posed a typical both sides do it proposition:  since Republicans were successful in obstructing Obama's infrastructure bill, which paid off for them politically, would Democrats do the same or would they try to work with Trump.  But the situations aren't remotely the same.  Republicans opposed everything Obama for the good of the Republicans; i.e., even if -- or especially if -- Obama's policies would bolster the economy they should be opposed because they would redound to Democrats and hurt the GOP.  Democrats now, however, are -- or fucking should be -- opposing Trump for the good of the country.  

But according to what poses as common media wisdom, it would be irresponsible for Democrats to refuse to seek common cause with Trump and his fellow Republicans, and fail to move towards the ever-shifting center.  The pathetic master at false equivalence, David Brooks, looks for what he describes as the space “between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.”  For Brooks, this space is inhabited by the likes of neo-con Bill Kristol.  For him and other pundits and commentators, no matter how far to the right the Republicans go, Democrats need to meet them halfway.  The mainstream, even after the last eight years of a moderate Democratic president and an obstructionist right wing opposition, stubbornly refuse to accept that one of the two major political parties in this country cares about governing and the other has been co-opted by a lunatic fringe -- a fringe that is about to control all three branches of government.

Rick Perlstein muses on a thought experiment: 
Imagine you are a commentator in Weimar Germany. A dynamic new political party comes on the scene. They pursue their goals via means that are, shall we say, extra-parliamentary. Their leader’s book promises that he alone can fix the nation’s problems. And that the fault lies not in ourselves, but in our resident aliens.  At what point, I wanted to ask, would you consider it your moral duty to break from the settled routines of “fairness” and “objectivity”—gotta hear both sides!—to inform your audience that what was going on was not normal?
This might have seemed outlandish before the advent of Donald Trump but now the questions it raises are alarmingly relevant.

James Fallows provides critical guidance for how the media "should cope with a man who will literally have life and death power over much of humanity [who] seems not to understand or care about the difference between truth and lies."  (1) Journalists need to call out lies as lies, not couch them as “controversies"; (2) they need to fight for reality itself by giving up on high-minded objectivity even if it will incur Trump's wrath and limit access to the Trump White House; (3) they need to understand that Trump's behavior is narcissistic and manipulative and learn how to effectively deal with such behaviors, which must include refusing to take what Trump says at face value.

Every time the media gives Trump a free pass, every time it acquiesces in spite of his untruths, every time it allows him to create and control a false narrative, he and his supporters get stronger and bolder and more dangerous.  It is already happening every day, and he hasn't even been inaugurated yet.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Needed: The Audacity Of A Lame Duck

Barack Obama seems to view his role in the last weeks of his presidency as that of enabler-in-chief -- to ensure the transition to the new administration will be as smooth and as peaceful as possible.  He deeply believes in the efficacy of our democratic institutions and seems to assume that traditional checks, balances and the norms of governance will constrain President-Elect Trump's more dangerous impulses.  Further, being the extraordinarily decent human being that he is, Obama wants to help the next president to succeed -- notwithstanding that the next president is a woefully ignorant, emotionally unstable, conflict-ridden, racially insensitive, anti-immigrant demagogue. 

There are times for decency and there are times for fighting indecency.  The notion that it is premature and overly alarmist to confront the grave threat Trump poses to democracy and the Constitution is frighteningly na├»ve.  Given what has already transpired since the election -- his courting of racists and right wing extremists for major executive branch posts, his intemperate and mendacious late night tweet storms, and his unabated financial self-dealing -- it is clear that Donald Trump is exactly the nightmare we knew he would be.  Doing anything that would help him succeed would only succeed in giving him more power and making him more effective -- and, therefore, more dangerous.

Once Trump assumes power, Senate and House Democrats should fight, resist and oppose everything he does. (See How to Respond to the End of Normalcy)  They should continue to press for investigations of Trump's business entanglements and unethical conduct, and, as Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have done, press the Government Accountability Office to review Trump's "chaotic" transition and conflicts of interest.  But between now and the inauguration, unless the recounts in three states disclose something explosive enough to undermine the legitimacy of the election, it is largely up to Obama to mitigate some of the disastrous effects of the transition even as a so-called lame duck and even if it would go against his preternatural faith in the power of our governmental norms and in the humanity and good will of others -- including, apparently, Donald Trump. 

The Bully Pulpit

President Obama remains enormously popular and well-respected.  Addressing some of the most fraught aspects of a Trump Presidency would greatly influence the national discourse going forward.  Obama thus needs to condemn the rise of white nationalism, nativism and anti-Muslim bigotry that Trump has encouraged, and denounce Trump's more overtly racist moves, including his appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. 

He should also speak out against Trump's mingling of business interests with the country's business.  Obama should explain to the American people why what is good for the Trump Organization is not what is good for the Nation.  He should warn that Trump's blithe refusal to sell his assets and put them in a blind trust is unacceptable.  He should point out that ceding responsibility to his children still permits him to use his office to enrich his family -- and that Trump's highly questionable actions to date -- from including his children on the transition team, to asking foreign leaders for favorable treatment with regard to his businesses, to encouraging diplomats to stay at his hotels -- reflect a remarkable insensitivity to the appearance of conflicts of interest that will -- and should -- undermine every policy position of Trump's presidency. 

Special Counsel

Obama should request that the Attorney General appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Trump's business dealings in Russia and determine what communication and coordination there was between the Trump campaign and the Russians prior to the election.  We know that the Russian government claims to have met with Trump campaign officials prior to the election and that Trump's son reportedly met with Russian diplomats.  There have been reports of a Trump email server connected to Russia and other suspicious circumstances suggesting an inappropriate, perhaps treasonous, Trump-Putin connection.  A rigorous, independent investigation is essential.

While he is at it, Obama should also request appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate the machinations of FBI Director James Comey and other FBI personnel and whether their statements and leaks were purposefully designed to influence the election -- and whether they were in communication with the Trump campaign. 

Recess Appointments

Obama can also strike back at unprecedented Republican obstruction designed to allow Trump to fill what was previously Justice Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court as well as the many vacancies throughout the federal judiciary.  President Obama nominated a Republican-approved and highly respected jurist, Merrick Garland, in May 2016, after Scalia left the building.  The Senate nevertheless abdicated its advise and consent role by refusing to hold hearings or vote on his nomination -- or even meet with the man.  Such rank partisan gamesmanship violated any reasonable interpretation of logic, history and traditional norms.  At the same time, the Republican-controlled Senate also blocked the nominations of dozens of qualified judges to fill the lower federal courts, creating what has been termed a judicial emergency. 

Obama has the power to use recess appointments under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution.  This power has been used by other presidents to fill federal vacancies and was used by President Eisenhower to put William Brennan on the Supreme Court.  Obama can appoint Judge Garland to the Supreme Court and other federal court nominees to the federal district and appellate courts when Congress adjourns on January 3.  While the appointments would only last until the end of 2017, unless the Senate approves them, this would at least slow down Trump's frightening remaking of the federal judiciary.  Besides, who knows what the state of Trump's presidency would look like then?  And, importantly, such recess appointments would also show Republicans that Obama and his Party are not going to meekly accept the untenable Republican position that the third ostensibly co-equal judicial branch of government belongs to them. 

Can Obama take these actions?  Yes he can.  Will he have the audacity to do so?  Unlikely, but that means we have to use our collective voices to demand that he do so. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How To Respond To The End Of Normalcy

Never more in my lifetime have we needed strong, aggressive, innovative, strategic leadership from the Democratic Party and the progressive movement that fuels it. Donald Trump will be no ordinary President. Rather than helping him protect the country, we must protect the country from the new President. This is uncharted territory.  -- Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz)
There has been a lot written lately -- far too belatedly -- about the normalizing of the utter outrageousness of Donald Trump's ascendance to the presidency.  Let's start with the now undisputed fact that the Russian government interfered with the election, as the NSA director stated, by directing "the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations."  How this isn't getting more traction from the media than Hillary Clinton's use of an un-hacked email server is baffling.  Add the tantalizing story that the Russian government was in direct contact with the Trump campaign prior to the election and Trump's refusal to disclose his financial relationships with Russian officials, banks and oligarchs, and we have a scandal that truly could be more explosive than Watergate.  It is not even a front page story.

With Trump's failure to release his tax returns or provide details of his myriad business holdings here and abroad, the potential for conflict of interest is beyond anything ever contemplated by an incoming president.  Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm in a blind trust.  Trump's solution, to allow his children -- who are playing key roles in the transition -- to handle his business affairs -- would be laughable if not so dangerously unethical.

Then there's Trump's selection of Steve Bannon as chief strategist -- a man who is not merely a divisive outsider as much of the mainstream press is portraying him.  Bannon is a white nationalist who has admittedly given a "platform" to the racist, nativist, anti-Islam, anti-Semitic and misogynist voices of the alt-right. 

Beyond the normalizing of Trump by the press, what is most disturbing is the response from our leaders in the opposition party, which for the most part has been cringe-worthy, treating this as they would any normal transition of power -- with polite words, well wishes, and calls for cooperation and accommodation.  Quite a contrast from how the Republican Party responded to Obama's election -- with unprecedented obstruction to every policy proposal and breaking with the basic norms of governance by attempting to shut down the government, holding the debt ceiling limits hostage and, most extraordinarily, refusing to advise and consent on a Supreme Court nomination.

Democrats, having learned nothing from the last eight years, appear to be scrambling to find common cause with the president-elect on select issues, according to an article in the New York Times, such as infrastructure spending -- which, all of a sudden, Republicans agree is necessary to create jobs and spur the economy.  This would be infuriating in normal times.  But these are not normal times.

Harry Reid, the outgoing minority leader of the Senate, has been on fire lately in his criticism of Trump, most recently in demanding that he rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon, who he referred to as a "champion of white supremacists":  “As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the nation seriously.”  Other Democratic Senators have condemned Bannon, and 169 Democrats in the House sent a letter asking Trump to reconsider Bannon's appointment. 

But a Harry Reid rant and a strongly-worded letter is not enough.  Democrats must refuse to work with Trump and his Party until he gets rid of Bannon, provides his tax returns, discloses his Russian connections and resolves his business holdings in an ethical manner.  This should not be negotiable. 

The Democratic leadership needs to follow the lead of Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, who made the case for opposition not accommodation on the House floor.  He noted his obligation and that of his colleagues "to tell the truth about Donald Trump" and to not "treat him like any other politician, or even like any other Republican, because he is not."
He represents something much more dangerous. And while none of us want this to be the case, we have a duty to treat him like the threat he is – a threat to our values, a threat to our people, and a threat to our national identity
Gallego went on to describe Trump -- accurately -- as a sexual predator, a demagogue, a bigot, a liar, and a con-artist.  He noted how "millions of Americans are living in fear because he has threatened them. Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, women, the disabled, the LGBT community, and more."  And he persuasively argued that Democrats in Congress "must oppose his agenda. We must oppose his efforts to build up his power. Anything that makes Trump more powerful, makes him more dangerous."

Gallego expressed his alarm that "senior leaders from both the progressive and centrist wings of the party" stated their "openness to working with Donald Trump on infrastructure."  But, as Gallego understands, "Donald Trump is not an ordinary politician. He is a con-artist. He has refused to give the American people reason to believe that he is not in this to enrich himself. In fact, he has bucked tradition by maintaining his family's interest in a private corporation.  And, unfortunately, his infrastructure plan is really a privatization scheme, rife with graft and corruption, whose real purpose is to enrich the Trump family and his supporters. He is not reaching out. He is reaching his hand into America's pockets, just as he has his whole career. And we must not let him do it."

Representative Gallego is absolutely right -- Congress "cannot afford to give him the benefit of the doubt. We must not lift a finger to help him scam our country. We must instead put every effort into stopping him."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Five Stages Of Trump

In On Death & Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief, typically described as: (1) shock or denial; (2) anger; (3) guilt; (4) depression; and (5) acceptance.  I'm quickly working my way through them.

Last night was surreal.  Like so many, I had spent the last several weeks endlessly studying the electoral college map, religiously reading FiveThirtyEight and other pollster websites, and making repeated calculations on the New York Times Upshot website.  I was heartened by clicking on sites that gave Clinton a 75% or 85% or 95% chance to win and believing they had some true meaning until they didn't.   If I never hear the terms "paths to victory" and "firewall" and "battleground states" again it will be too soon.  I knew Clinton's many paths by heart and understood how few Trump had.  Fine, Trump can have Florida and North Carolina and Ohio.  It didn't matter as long as Clinton's firewall held up.  But Pennsylvania was still too close to call and other states fell that were thought to be safe.  As the great philosopher Vizzini once said:  "Inconceivable!"

I woke up this morning pissed off.   The fucking media that equated the concatenation of Trump's malfeasance with the misguided but hardly criminal use of a private mail address; that so lowered the bar for one candidate who could lie with impunity and speak in word salad as long as he didn't say something completely bat shit crazy; and that failed to ask a single question in any of the debates about climate change.  Fucking James Comey who single-handedly shifted the momentum and re-energized Trump's candidacy at a time it was flailing.  The fucking craven Republicans who failed to stand up to the most dangerously unqualified candidate in modern times.  Fucking Jill Stein and Gary Johnson and those who voted for them, whose moral purity blinded them to the enormous difference between the two major party candidates.  The fucking Clinton campaign for failing to figure out with all their fucking data analytics the states they needed to shore up and for not understanding and pushing back on the way the fucking email nonsense was being exploited.  The fucking electoral college -- first Bush and now Trump have won the presidency despite losing the popular vote.  The fucking angry white men who could not vote for a woman or accept the fact that America does not belong to them.

The guilt is starting to creep in. Not that my opinion would have changed anything but I was so sure that Clinton was best positioned to be the Democratic candidate.  As much as I loved and admired Bernie Sanders, I was so sure that he could not have turned out people of color as Clinton could and that once the GOP attack machine turned on him, he would have been swift-boated faster than you could say "socialist Jew."  But I'm starting to realize, way too late, that maybe he could have appealed to some of the disaffected electorate that Trump tapped into.  Maybe.

That's about as far as I've gotten.  Depression is sure to sink in any moment. 

And then stage five -- but that is where I'm going to part from Kubler-Ross.  There is no way to find peace and acceptance in a Trump Presidency, a Republican Congress and a right wing Supreme Court.  We have to fight back -- not move to fucking Canada. 

Inauguration Day is January 20, 2017.  We have until then to work through our grief.  Then it's time to get busy.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Last Call For Undecideds

You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!  -- Planet of the Apes
Here's a thought experiment for all you undecideds, Hillary-haters and Bernie-or-Busters out there.  The Trump campaign just floated the possibility of a Trump Administration that would include Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General and Newt Gingrich as Secretary of State.  Let that sink in for a minute. 

Then think about a Supreme Court that, as a New York Times editorial aptly summarized in an editorial this morning:  "would promote a worldview where fewer people have rights, where women do not have reproductive choices, where lawmakers can make it harder for minorities to vote, where religious people are free to disregard laws protecting people they don’t like. Such a court could use a severe interpretation of the Constitution to ensure that American politics can be flooded with unlimited money, that reasonable gun restrictions are struck down, that corporate interests prevail over those of consumers, and that basic environmental regulations are turned back."

Then think about the end of any attempt to combat climate change and the pursuit of policies that would actually exacerbate global warming.

Then think about having a president who is a hero to the alt-right, consolidating racist, nativist and anti-Semitic furor, a president with no understanding of history, of policy or of the Constitution, and  president who will be unfettered by checks or balances either because he will blithely ignore them or his Party will control Congress.

Now, imagine this has all transpired and write a letter to your children, your grandchildren, and/or other loved ones from the depths of Trumpland explaining why you didn't vote or why you voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. How would that go?

See also The Folly Of Voting For A Third-Party Candidate When One Of The Other Two Is Donald Trump