Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Raging Debate

A debate now rages within Progressive circles following last Monday’s Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki. The issue is this: How do we explain Trump’s weird behavior during the meeting? The two most prominent explanations are these:

A.    Donald Trump is a narcissistic idiot.

 B.    Donald Trump is a narcissistic idiot who is in Putin’s pocket.

One of these is clearly true, but which one?
According to the first explanation (we can call it the Simple Idiocy Theory), Trump is so upset about people doubting his 2016 election victory that he lashes out at everyone who might reinforce those doubts. So, he fires Comey, rages against Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself instead of taking up the Trumpian cause, and dispatches his various minions out to the media to discredit the FBI and the Mueller investigation.

According to the Simple Idiocy Theory, Trump wanted to do two things in Helsinki: First, get Putin to say that he didn’t interfere in the election, and, Second, express admiration for someone that he, Trump, considers a “strong leader.”

The second theory, the Idiot in Putin’s Pocket Theory, sees the Helsinki meeting as primarily a Putin operation aimed at weakening NATO and humiliating Trump. Certainly, if these were Putin’s goals, he succeeded. Did you notice, for example, how Trump, in his post-Helsinki Tucker Carlson interview said, in effect, “If Russia invades you, Montenegro, tough toenails on you.”

Wow. What is up with that? Maybe Trump still resents Montenegro’s Prime Minister for interfering with his “Back off, Bitches!” swagger at the NATO meeting in Brussels last year.

Trump shoves Montenegro's Prime Minister, Duško Marković aside

Trump poses for the camera after shoving Duško Marković aside (Pictures from USA Today)

Of the two theories, I’m inclined to believe the Idiot in Putin’s Pocket one. My reasoning is this: if Trump were merely obsessed with the legitimacy of his election, why does he consistently praise Putin and act so gutless in his presence? We know that Trump likes to show the world how strong he believes himself to be, and facing down Putin would be a great way to demonstrate strength. So why does he never do it?

Also, why does Trump threaten to shut down the Mueller investigation? If there’s nothing there, a full and thorough reporting of this fact would be to his advantage.

Furthermore, how is it that so many Trump affiliated people have been shown to have Russian connections, and so many of them “forgot to mention” these connections in a timely manner?

Finally, what is Trump hiding in his tax returns? Is it, as the Simple Idiocy people say, just a matter of Trump not wanting everyone to know he’s not as rich as he claims to be? Or is it, as I believe, because he is so tangled up in Russian oligarch money that he can’t act against Russia on behalf of American interests?

When the Mueller investigation is complete, assuming Trump doesn’t shut it down, we will know which of these theories is true. But in the meantime, we have another major debate to consider, that concerning the Republican leadership in Congress. The question here is, “Are Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan spineless partisan hacks, or…”

Never mind. There’s no real debate on that point.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Don't despair, fellow progressives, I believe everything will work out eventually.

“Poppycock!” you may say (or words to that effect). “Right wingers on the Supreme Court have just crippled workers’ rights and now Justice Kennedy’s retirement will allow Trump to appoint an even more aggressive conservative to the bench.”

Okay, true enough, but in the long run, the arc of the moral universe will nevertheless bend our way.

“Long run?!! So what!” you retort. “In the long run Florida will be an uninhabitable, windswept peninsular fragment, threatened by ever-rising sea levels!”

Well, that aside, I still believe things will work out for us and also for the arc of moral justice. Certainly, Donald Trump will appoint a very questionable individual to the Supreme Court. In fact, Culture World has managed to obtain from an inside source, pictures of three of Trump’s short listers which I reveal here for the first time…

But nevertheless, here’s what I expect will happen within the next year and a half.

The newly emboldened Supreme Court will continue to undermine minority voting rights and women’s abortion rights all the while pretending their decisions have nothing to do with race or gender. Women in need of abortions who now live in places like Texas and Mississippi will be required to travel hundreds of miles for treatment because of the conservative majority on the Court. This will create a major backlash starting around 2019, resulting in more women and educated suburbanites leaving the GOP, and minority voters turning out in droves in future elections.

In addition to this, the Mueller investigation will bring to light Trump’s financial obligations to Putin and other Russian oligarchs, further undermining his already low approval rating among normal, non-Republican voters.

Then, the GOP tax give-away to the rich, based as it is on debt that the rest of us now owe, will lead us into a recession that will further infuriate voters. I’m not alone in my concern about a recession. Here’s a piece from yesterday’s New York Times offering a somewhat worrisome take on this prospect.

So, by 2020, the GOP will (justifiably) be in danger of totaling imploding and ceasing to exist as a viable party. Trump, of course, will blame all this on Nancy Pelosi or Alec Baldwin or someone like that, but by then even many Fox viewers will have stopped believing him.

Naturally I don’t relish the prospect of a recession, especially now that our tax-reform-based national debt has made it more difficult to fight our way out of one. But this recessionary cloud will have a silver lining: voters will be reminded of how conservative tax plans are invariably aimed at helping the rich and invariably hurt the rest of us. In response, newly elected progressive leaders (President Kamala Harris, anyone?) will restructure the government in a way that eases the suffering of the recession’s hardest hit victims – just as FDR did in response to the (conservative-created) Great Depression.

So, fellow citizens, hold onto your hats (or bandanas, or hijabs, or whatever), and together let’s fight our way forward to the next era of out-and-out progressivism, and in the meantime, let's do what we can to alleviate the suffering on hard-hit families that Trump's policies have brought (will bring) about.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pity the Nation

I recently read (I forget exactly where) that when a nation pays more attention to its political leaders than it does to its poets, it has lost its way. In view of this, I'd like to offer the following poem, written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti some 11 years ago.

 Pity the Nation

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”

― Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet extraordinaire and owner of America's finest bookstore, City Lights

                                        Photo from NPR

                              From City Lights' Webpage

Finally, here's Ferlinghetti reading the poem: