September 30, 2018

Sunday School 9/30/18

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stopped in to visit with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday; Lindsey Graham and Mazie Hirono checked in on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and John Dickerson had an interesting round table on CBS' Face the Nation. Let's start with Sanders.

After talking at length about the current state of the Kavanaugh nomination, where nothing new was disclosed and Sanders stuck with the Trump line, Wallace moved to a 'lightning round' of questions for her.

On the looming Trump/Rosenstein meeting, she's not sure when it will happen, nor that there's only the one issue on the table, that Rosenstein allegedly threatened to tape the president and to potentially invoke the 25th amendment. She "wouldn't be surprised" if other topics came up, she said, and couldn't speak to whether or not Rosenstein would keep his job.

The next question was about money, and the short-term spending bill the president signed on Friday; the bill funds Homeland Security until 12/7 without any new money for the border wall. If Congress doesn't pass additional funding, Wallace wondered if Trump would shut down the government.
We'll have to wait and see what happens. But the president is committed to making sure we build a wall and getting funding for it. And if I know anything about Donald Trump, he ultimately get what he's fighting for, and that will be the wall.
Finally, he asked about the three weeks it's been since Sanders last held a formal White House press room briefing. She didn't say they'd get rid of the briefings completely, but she pointed out that Trump does more Q&A than any other president did, and that
I always think that if you can hear directly from the president and the press has a chance to ask the president questions directly, that's infinitely better than talking to me. 
From Stephanopoulos's conversations, we didn't learn anything new from Hirono, but these comments from Graham seemed new.
So the FBI will do a supplemental investigation. Them I'm going to call for an investigation of what happened in this committee - who betrayed Dr. Ford's trust, who in Feinstein's office recommended Katz as a lawyer, why did Ms. Ford not know that the committee was willing to go to California, who released the anonymous letter given to the committee by Cory Gardner.  We're going to do a wholesale full-scale investigation of what I think was a despicable process to deter it from happening again.
From Dickerson's round table conversation, here's what Molly Ball offered:
And the emotional outpouring that you saw all across the country, people calling in to their -- their members of Congress, people watching transfixed on screens all across the country, this hearing, it was a really wrenching and emotional occasion for America. And I think it's one that we're going to look back on as a cultural touchstone for years to come. In political terms we are going into a midterm election where had this never occurred, it was already an election about women's anger and women's voices and a female-driven backlash to all of the cultural and political currents of the day...it's almost absurdly fitting that this should be the sort of final political controversy for this year's election.
I'll close with John Dickerson's comments on this mess.
The arena added to the anguish. The world's greatest deliberative body handled society's toughest questions with the nuance of a freight train. Partisanship shattered the dish that is supposed to cool the hot cup. At the end of this drama there will be no winners. And yet, calls to sexual assault hotlines have increased two hundred percent since Ford's testimony. Senators on both sides and even president Trump deemed (Ford) credible. It is now the default in America that accusers must be treated seriously and respectfully. Now, only the willfully ignorant don't know why women don't report abuse.
This means my daughter will live in a better world that her mother, who like thousands of others was inspired to explain why she didn't report last week, a collective act that transformed what had been a wound into a walking stick. There is more anguish to come from this drama, but the culture has changed. A week of public anguish will mean less private anguish in the future. 
For those of you who, like John Dickerson's wife, and me, and tens of thousands of other women, didn't report their abuse, I wish you strength, whether you keep or share your secret, and peace.

See you around campus.

I Have Never Forgotten

I haven't written anything in a few days, mostly because I've been struggling with the topic of the day - the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, and the allegations of  sexual assault that have been lodged against him.

I can talk about it in a detached sort of way, as I have on social media in reaction to questions or comments - that's relatively easy:
  • prior FBI background checks would not have been likely to delve into this type of thing, particularly since, from all appearances Kavanaugh has led an exemplary life as an adult
  • having an additional investigation by the FBI at this point should only help Kavanaugh, if he's innocent, and I wonder why he was so afraid to ask for one on his own, or even say that he wanted one, when asked. It seemed odd to me, that exchange with Senator Durbin.
  • neither being first in your class nor being a virgin for many many many years have anything to do with sexual harassment, and those seemed like odd defenses to have raised, either in an interview on the friendliest possible network or at a Senate hearing 
  • if he's not on the Bench by tomorrow, surely the world won't come to an end; we have concrete proof of that thanks to Mitch McConnell
  • no Democrats were going to vote for him, unless out of a desire for self-preservation as Dems in Trump country, and the investigation will not change that. 
  • Kavanaugh's performance at the hearing on Thursday seemed to be exactly that: a performance, driven by Trump's comments about his temperament during the Fox News interview than anything else. 
  • Dr. Blasey Ford's account sounded plausible, and I found her testimony about the event both compelling and horrifying.
But really talking about it, or writing about it, has been very difficult.

Because I have been the under-aged drinker at parties with no parents around, or with parents who looked the other way.

Because I have been the girl in the bedroom, being drunkenly and aggressively fondled by a 'friend' when I was clearly, drunkenly, unable to give consent.

And I was not the only one, back in the 70s, as a small-town teenager trying to navigate high school.

We didn't have a fancy country club. We had back roads and drinking spots and the Kissing Bridge and other make-out spots and I saw many times those became one and the same, a natural progression, if you will. We had dances at school, with plenty of dark and out of the way spots like parking lots and playgrounds and athletic fields. And there were parties.

I remember one particular party - I was not in attendance - the rumors and gossip and tales of drunken exploits were so rampant that the school principal got involved, urging discussions on under-aged drinking and personal and parental responsibility and things along those lines.

The drinking age was 18; the purchasing age was lower, or there were older friends willing to help out in a pinch. Or there was stealing booze, or there was the basement keg. It was easy.

And, one time, for me, things got out of hand, and could have gotten really out of hand, had someone not knocked on the door. Not out of concern, mind you, but because he wanted the room.

Back then, it wasn't considered sexual assault; I don't know that anyone in high school ever reported it to anyone. We were awkward and nervous and afraid. Afraid to participate, and afraid not to. Alcohol was cool, and liberating. Choices were made, sometimes regretted.

I didn't tell my parents about any of this, about the drinking, or about that time when things got out of hand, because I was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, and so it was my fault.

They found out about the drinking, of course, but that's a whole nother story. I don't believe they knew about that time when things got out of hand, and could have gotten really out of hand.

I don't have a calendar from high school; somewhere, I have my high school yearbook, not sure exactly where it is. But I know my yearbook, like Brett Kavanaugh's, has references to parties, and drinking, and a whole host of things I'm admonished to never forget.

And like Dr. Blasey Ford, I have never forgotten.

September 26, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v149)

Wondering why the map is so big that is had room for me to be wondering all over it, for starters.

If you were telling a joke, and people laughed, I wonder why you'd say you weren't expecting them to laugh? Or conversely, if you weren't telling a joke, and people laughed, and you said you weren't expecting that reaction, why would you say you were telling a joke? 

If you give a speech talking about how what happens in high school stays in high school, or a speech saying that what happens in law school stays in law school, why would you pretend that it's completely meaningless what you're keeping in high school and law school? 

If you and your friends never had any dates with a girl named Renate, why would you all mention her - repeatedly - in your yearbook, I wonder? And what exactly is a Renate Alumni?

If you believe that your Senate Committee is perfectly capable of investigating allegations of sexual harassment, and of questioning the accused and his accuser, why would you not do the questioning yourself, I wonder? Why hire someone to do it for you?

And if you were a Senator, why would you cede your official responsibility to someone else? Five minutes is precious time, I would think, to do your sworn duty.  And if you're willing to cede your responsibility to someone else on the questioning side, can I vote on your behalf?

If you're a social media company and you're trying to eliminate hate and fake news and lies and manipulative information, I wonder why you're not suspending the president's accounts?

And if the president is allowed to joke about something that's not funny, and we are to believe him when he says he was just kidding, I wonder why we're to assume that everyone else is lying when they say they were just joking around? And why we are supposed to take the president at his word when he says he was kidding, or misspoke, or was taken out of context, but everyone else needs multiple corroborating witnesses if we are to believe them?

Why is it that when China targets American farmers, it's election interference but when Russia actually interferes with our elections, it's a 400 pound guy on a bed in a basement? I'm really wondering about that one. 

If you want to clear your name for anything, I wonder, why would you go on Fox News? Aren't you really just trying to energize your fans, instead of really getting out the truth to others why might actually be swayed by your answers to difficult questions?

If you want credibility for what you're going to say, no matter what it is, I wonder why you'd pick Michael Avenatti as your lawyer?

Similarly, if you're looking to find your way, with short notice, through the ins and outs of a Congressional hearing, I wonder why anyone would question you getting a 'connected' lawyer, one familiar with what you have to face?  

And why is it a political, partisan problem, I wonder, when someone gets a Democrat as an attorney, but it's not a problem when someone gets a Republican as an attorney? 

I have to wonder about this stuff, it's so hard to keep track of what's right and what's wrong.

September 25, 2018

Like Deja Vu All Over Again

Today the president spoke at the United Nations for the second time. You might be wondering how different today's speech was from the one he made last year

Fear not, I've got you covered. Excerpts from 2017 will be in italics; excerpts from today's message will appear in normal font. Last year, he started out by telling the world how great he was.
Fortunately the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high -- a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time. And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense. Our military will soon be the strongest it's ever been.
This year was no different. Well, after the laughter, that is, when Trump proclaimed his accomplishments in less than two years to be greater than almost any administration in the history of America, it was no different.
America's economy is booming like never before. Since my election we have added $10 trillion in wealth. The stock market is at an all-time high in history, and jobless claims are at a 50-year ow. African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all achieved their lowest levels ever recorded. We have added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs. We have started the construction of a major border wall and we have greatly strengthened border security. We have secured record funding for our military, $700 billion this year and $716 billion next year. Our military will soon be more powerful than it has ever been before. In other words, the United States is stronger, safer and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago. 
Surely, his strictly American accomplishments were bigly meaningful for the rest of the world, right? He might have struck a more welcome tone with his chants of sovereignty.
We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is the foundation for cooperation and success.
Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.
Strong, sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny. And strong sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.  
Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.
That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination. I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.
Doing your fair share is another Trumpian theme, and one that he touched on last year as well as today.
The United States is one of of 193 countries in the United Nations and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more. in fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes. The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals,especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be worth it.
Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell. 
I don't like much about the president, but that's a truly classic line, in fact.
The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world. In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially. 
Now, remember that he started this year by saying how rich we are and all, which makes this next part kind of funny.
The United States is the world's largest giver in the world by far of foreign aid. But few give anything to us. That is why we are are taking a hard look at US foreign assistance... 
Um, what exactly do we need in terms of foreign aid, anyway?
We will examine what's working, what is not working, and whether the countries that receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart. Moving forward, we will only give foreign aid to those who respect us, and frankly are our friends. We expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defense.
 And in closing,
The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?
So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: we will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all. 
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the nations of the world. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. 
And this year?
Together, let us choose a future of patriotism, prosperity and pride. Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat. Let us come here to this place to stand for our people and our nations.  Forever strong, forever sovereign, forever just.
Forever thankful for the grace and the goodness and the glory of God. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the nations of the world. Thank you very much. 

September 23, 2018

Swampy Glass Houses and Whatnot

Someone on Twitter questioned why "a victim needed a team of high-powered Democratic-operative lawyers."

This led me to wonder why an alleged perpetrator needed to spend day after day after day after day after day at the White House preparing to answer questions about something he says he didn't do?
Just as he did several weeks ago to prepare for his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Brett M. Kavanaugh was back inside a room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building - again facing questioners readying him for a high-stakes appearance in the Senate.
Commenters on the tweet wondered who was paying for all of that, since the victim is merely a university professor, which caused me to wonder who's paying for all of Kavanaugh's practice. Maybe it's the RNC, which for a time handled the legal bills for the president, a self-proclaimed billionaire several times over (both the number of billions, and the number of proclamations)?

Here are just a couple of mentions of that:

Combined with the Republican National Committee, Trump's campaign paid a total of $5.5 million in legal bills during 2017 amid probes into Russia's role in the 2016 election. The payments were made to law firms, as well as the company owned by the president's family.
The Republican National Committee has for months been quietly paying expenses previously covered by the Trump campaign in an arrangement that experts say is bizarre, but legal. The payments include more than $37,000 a month in rent to president Donald Trump's company, and thousands more in salary to Vice President Mike Pence's nephew, John Pence. The payments started abruptly last September, when the RNC came under pressure to stop paying Trump's personal legal bills in the special counsel's Russia investigation.
Nope -- it's not the RNC. Actually, it's you and me who are paying for Kavanaugh's truth-telling practice sessions.

From the same Washington Post article linked in the second sentence of this post,
This time, the questions were much different. An array of White House aides, playing the role of various senators on the Judiciary Committee, quizzed Kavanaugh last week about his sex life and other personal matters in an attempt to prepare him for a hearing that would inevitably be uncomfortable. 
The article goes on to note
In a preparation session on Tuesday, Kavanaugh faced more than a dozen White House aides in the Eisenhower building, during which aides played different senators for more than two hours.
Dozens of aides, who knows how many hours over the past week or so, spent making sure Kavanaugh tells the truth no matter how he's asked, and that he doesn't lose his cool doing it.

And we're footing the bill.

I wonder why they're not asking Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed and the other evangelical leaders who are threatening the White House that the flock won't vote if the administration doesn't get Kavanaugh confirmed to pay for his 'practice', since they're the ones who have drawn the line in the sand?

Of course, it's nothing new for us to be paying the bills for Trump, his family, his staffers, and his companies.  That's right -- his companies. In this USA Today article from last fall, we learn
Taxpayers are footing the legal bill for at least 10 Justice Department lawyers and paralegals to work on lawsuits related to president Trump's private businesses.
Neither the White House nor the Justice Department will say how much it is costing taxpayers but federal payroll records show the salaries of the government lawyers assigned to the cases range from about $133,000 to $185,000. 
The government legal team is defending president Trump in four lawsuits stemming from his unusual decision not to divest himself from hundred of his companies that are entangled with customers that include foreign governments and officials.
In these cases, Justice Department attorneys are not defending policy actions Trump took as president. Instead, the taxpayer-funded lawyers are making the case that it is not unconstitutional for the president's private companies to earn profits from foreign government and officials while he's in office.
Comically, we're paying them to suggest that there's no difference between foreign government officials and their representatives actually paying to roll around on one of those glorious Trump Hotel mattresses and a different president selling a book.
President Obama, we know he received royalties from the sale of books during his presidency. Did he violate the Emoluments Clause because he likely would have received royalties from the sale of books to foreign government representatives? 
Hmm. Likely would have... actually did...  Yeah, there's a difference there, and you don't have to be a government lawyer to figure that out.

I don't care who's paying Dr. Ford's legal bills - she's entitled to her preparation, just like Kavanaugh is entitled to his. She can choose who'll pay her bills - but we're stuck paying Kavanaugh's, whether we like it or not.

I also care that you and I are constantly paying for the president's money-making business, whether it's office space rentals, or golf cart rentals, or legal bills. And that we pay legal bills for his children. And I care about all of the legal ways campaign contributions can be spent.

The bottom line here? People who are so upset about Ford hiring lawyers should stop and think about the lawyers that they're paying for, without their knowledge, permission or approval.

 And, by the way - people who live in glass swamp houses shouldn't throw pond scum.

September 19, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (148)

Let's get right to it, shall we?

I wonder what the president meant when he said "we love the people of Poland coming into the United States in any way, shape or form, OK?" I'm sure he meant in any legal way, shape or form, of course. Right?

White House photo
And now there's no reason to wonder if there's a reduction in the number of Poles we love wanting to come here, after Trump bigly dissed his counterpart, President Duda, by not giving him a chair to sit in while signing a new joint strategic partnership.

You'll see the American president, resolutely staring with resolve at the White House photographer from behind the Resolute Desk, and you'll see the insensitive treatment of Duda to Trump's right.

No one could find the man a chair? Not even one of the couple thousand 'senior officials' in the administration? Maybe Poland won't be naming the their hoped-for new military base Fort Trump after all.

Trump visited North Carolina today, to survey damage from Hurricane Florence and greet residents.  Differing from his well known trips to Texas (what a great turnout) and Puerto Rico (tossing paper towels to storm victims), closer to home he helped hand out meals. And, of course, he had to ask about Lake Norman, a large man-made lake north of Charlotte.
And how is Lake Norman, that area? How is that doing? I love that area. I can't tell you why, but I love that area. 
It didn't take a ton of wondering as to why he might be interested.

Moving on to the other major storm occupying the news, I wonder why it is that the Senate feels the need to move forward so quickly on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation?  I mean, it's not like we need him on the Supreme Court, right?

There's certainly no reason to think that having a 9th judge on the bench is necessary on the first Monday in October 2018, given that we were denied a 9th judge for 293 days when it was a Democrat behind the appointment. Honestly, what's the big hurry?

I'm also wondering about the specific qualifications the Judiciary Committee members and their staffs have for investigating allegations of sexual abuse. I mean, do any of them even watch Law and Order SVU?

And I'm trying to picture them explaining to their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, or any other young women they know why there's no need for an impartial, professional investigation.

Moving on to the deteriorating level of discourse in politics (and everything else, it seems) today,  is anyone wondering why Trump supporter Claudia Tenney is conjuring up Mafioso images in her battle against Anthony Brindisi to represent NY's 22nd congressional district? I know she's doing it now - but did you know she started with this tactic more than a year ago?  Here's a little bit from an interview with USA today in July 2017.
While unloading on her Democratic challenger during a Thursday interview with USA Today, Tenney (R-New Hartford) sought to highlight the "great contrast" between her own father, late state Supreme Court Justice John R. Tenney, and Brindisi's father Louis, who she described as "very heavily involved with the organized crime in Utica for many years, representing them."
"He fought or law and order and Anthony's father represented some of the worst criminals in our community," Tenney said, looking at a picture of her father during a wide-ranging interview in her DC office. "You have to question...some of the things that have happened in his family. The voters make that decision. I'm not saying Anthony is part of that but that's the family you come from." 
Brindisi's campaign had the best possible answer back then:
Anthony Brindisi believes that name calling never created a job in Upstate New York.
Fast forward to this week and Tenney is downing her game, to Trumpian levels. In a memo sent to staffers - and to the Utica Observer-Dispatch - we learn from Tenney campaign consultant Tim Edson that
We have the unique situation that we should be cautious about, his family has a track record and this is going to be an intense, tough race (Edson said). And as the pressure  itself on Brindisi and he watches his political career come to an end, (people) need to be vigilant because it's possible his family members could return to the kind of intimidating behavior that's sort of characterized the last 30 years of them being in Utica. 
What the ever-wondering hell is that???  No -- seriously, what the ever-wondering hell IS that???  Is this guy actual proud of himself for this?

Why, yes - yes he is. Just look at his company's website. Here's a snippet, with a little emphasis to help you see what this stereotypical attack on Italian-Americans is all about.
FP1 writes and produces advertising that is inspired, fresh, and cuts through the clutter of typical political and issue ads. The utmost importance is placed on creating advertising that is emotionally and intellectually compelling - with an overall tone that viewers find to be informational, honest, and persuasive - not standard spin. 
I wonder how much Tenney's paying for this "intellectually compelling' crap?  It's not worth one red cent if you ask me.

September 18, 2018

Collins to Run Again After All

Buffalo-area congressman and Trump first responder Chris Collins is going to be on the ballot for his congressional seat in November after all.

Unfortunately, it seems, trying to get off the ballot under some grand scheme being worked on by Erie County Republicans and Collins could jeopardize his defense against the federal criminal charges filed against him mid-summer, and could have led to a lawsuit by NY Democrats fighting against the plan to replace him on the ballot. It might even have jeopardized his bail, attorneys thought, which negated his earlier statement that he would suspend his campaign:
After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it's in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party, and president Trump's agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress it's in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party, and president Trump's agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress.
Part of this is because of NY's convoluted election law; he'd only get off the ballot if he was no longer a resident of NY, or nominated for another office, or dead. Something we might want to think about changing in the future,  fellow NY voters...

Speaking of attorneys, it probably shouldn't be shocking to learn that Collins had used campaign funds to pay legal fees related to the insider trading. From this report  in August, we learn (emphasis added)
Since July 2017, Federal Election Commission records show Collins' campaign has been paying up to $60,000 per month in legal services to prestigious law firm Baker Hostetler. The firm is representing Collins in the case.
While it is legal to use campaign funds to pay for legal fees, it's not clear whether Collins' constituents and supporters were aware that donations were being used to assist his legal fight.
Those legal fees covered the time period of two separate House probes, including one by the Office of Congressional Ethics and another by the House Ethics Committee. 
A spokesman for the Collins legal team confirmed that the payments from the campaign were for the investigation by the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics and an ongoing inquiry by the House Ethics Committee. Going forward, the congressman will pay for his legal bills out of his own pocket, the spokesman added. 
That's right -- like a lot of other ridiculous expenses, including steak dinners and golf outings, legal fees can be paid out of campaign funds.

I mean, from an ethical perspective, isn't Collins using campaign funds to pay legal fees kind of like the president using donations to his charitable foundation for his own selfish purposes?

Collins recently did an interview with a Buffalo TV station, noting that he welcomed the FBI when they showed up at his house early one morning back in April, and that he thought when he was talking to them that it was related to the ethics investigations (that started in 2016, he noted). In the interview, he was asked whether he thought he had let his constituents down.
No, again, no allegations against me have a thing to do with my role as a member of Congress. Nor did I ever sell any stock, so I'm holding my head high.
He's right on the latter point -- as his stock is in a trust, he couldn't actually sell any specific stock.

But on the former, I can't disagree more: with two separate ethics investigations, the first finding good reason to refer him for the second one, his ethics have everything to do with his role as a Congressman.

 And voters seem to understand that, apparently; for example, residents in Eden, the likely spot to drop Collins so he wouldn't have to run for his Congressional seat, were not at all excited about that idea.
Car horns honked, eliciting cheers as they drove past the group of protesters standing outside the Eden Town Hall. Signs labeled "fraud," "Collins is a swamp monster," and "Eden not bossed, not bought, not Collins," waved in the air as the crowd marched down to the intersection at Route 62 and East Church Street... The protest is the latest in a series of protests revolving around the Republicans' attempts to get Chris Collins off the November congressional ballot after the congressman suspended his campaign following an indictment for federal insider trading and fraud charges. 
Hopefully, voters in the 27th district will do the right thing in November and not give him a single vote.

September 16, 2018

Sunday School 9/16/18

FEMA administrator Brock Long made the rounds today, hitting three of our classrooms: Face the Nation, Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday  We'll look at each of those appearances in reverse order.

Before we get into the interviews, here's a quick refresher on the current investigation into Long's potential abuse of official cars.
The IG is investigating whether Long misused government resources and personnel on trips back home to Hickory, NC, on the weekends, said two of the officials. The IG's interest was drawn after one of the vehicles - a black Suburban - as involved in an accident, according to one of the officials. 
There's also noise that Kirstjen Nielsen was concerned about Long's frequent trips home and extensive time out of the office, and that she had talked to him about that - and about resigning.

Chris Wallace didn't mention the investigation, and instead spent the bulk of the interview focused on Hurricane Florence, with only a little bit of time on Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria. On the former, Long expressed confidence that FEMA was well positioned and cooperating effectively with state and local officials in the Carolinas. On the latter, Wallace asked a "simple factual question" whether Long disputed the 3,000 hurricane-related deaths. The response was, well, less than simple. Here's part of it:
Well, there are several different studies that are all over the place when it comes to death in the official stance of FEMA is we don't count deaths. You know, the only thing that would come remotely close to data that we would have is the funeral benefits that we push forward... And there is a difference between direct deaths and indirect deaths. One study could have studied the entire year that's gone by about a number of indirect deaths over time or whatever, versus a six-month study in George Washington. 
So, that's -- you know, there's a lot of issues with numbers being all over the place. It's hard to tell what's accurate and what's not, but we have got to come together as a country to focus on the rebuilding of Puerto Rico and building a resilient infrastructure... 
Frustrated, indeed - by the numbers that were made up to make him look bad.

Let's look at Long's answer to Chuck Todd's question about that 'make president look bad' thing:
Well I mean there's, I don't think the studies, I don't know why the studies were done. I mean, I think what we're trying to do, in my opinion, what we've got to do is figure out why people die, from direct deaths, which is the wind, the water and the waves, you know, building collapsing, which is probably where the 65 number came from. And then there's indirect deaths. So, the George Washington study looked at what happened six months after the fact.
And you know,what happens is -- and even in this event, you might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people have heart attacks due to stress. They fall off their house trying to fix their roof. They die in car crashes because they, they went through an intersection where stoplights weren't working/ You know the other thing that goes on, there's all kinds of studies on this that we take a look at. Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can't blame spousal abuse, you know, after a disaster on anybody.
Stop right there and re-read that italicized sentence again, maybe a couple of times. Because I'm pretty darn sure that you can always blame spousal abuse on the spouse, hurricane or no.  That's a shocking comment for Long - or anyone - to have made. I can't wait for the president to retweet this one.

On CBS, John Dickerson talked about interrupted medical care, which accounted for a large percentage of  Katrina deaths, and also Maria deaths as well; he also specifically asked who at FEMA contributed to the George Washington University report. This answer, too, is shocking, but for a different reason.
Yeah, I don't know who they interviewed within the agency. They may have looked at funeral benefits to help, you know, calculate whatever number. And that's a number, you know, that's the only number we would really be able to contribute to any study going forward...
So, multiple times today, Long had the chance to clarify what FEMA knows about the death toll from Hurricane Maria, by simply offering up the funeral benefits figure he cited as facts FEMA could provide. And he didn't do it.  That none of the interviewers asked for death figures shows a lack of curiosity on their part as well.

Long also has zero curiosity about his own agency, to the point that since the GW study came out at the end of August, he hasn't even found out who at FEMA provided information or what information was provided.  How is that even possible? If he knows there was no 'interview' per se but just a data capture, he should have said that, too.

See you around campus.

September 15, 2018

I'm Not Smarter Than a Michigan First Grader

I was going through some stacks of reading (a trend I've noticed, lately) and came upon a tiny blurb in the 'Only in America' section of The Week, a magazine that compiles US and international media reports. 

Here's what I saw that caught my eye:
Conservative lawmakers have stripped Michigan's social studies curriculum of any reference to civil rights, climate change, or "core democratic values." State Sen. Patrick Colbeck said these phrases are "not politically neutral."  Other referenced removed include Roe v. Wade, the NAACP, and gay rights. Students will be taught that "the expansion of rights for some groups can be viewed as an infringement of rights and freedoms of others."
Now, as the daughter of a social studies teacher (and a straight A student throughout my elementary and secondary educational career in that particular subject), you can probably imagine why this one was intriguing.

My dad was a creative social studies teacher back in the day, working to get kids thinking about his favorite subject not as a standalone thing, but as something connected to the world we live in. He also tried to have fun; I distinctly remember his trivia questions (pre-Internet, folks) and having to get the answers right myself so I could grade those while he read the essays he was famous for assigning. One question I was sure he had to have made up was the one about a river catching on fire (Cuyahoga River, 1969). I also remember shortened summer vacations, as he frequently was involved in negotiations and also curriculum development - stuff like they're doing around the country these days.

Anyway -- back to the Michiganders and their abolishment of the facts, or whatever it is they're trying to do. What they're trying to do is what many red states have tried to do: take back their curriculum from the liberals. This happens when there's a flip in the balance of power from D to R, from L to R, as it were.

Texas almost let students and dinosaurs walk to school together. Florida let any citizen challenge the curriculum, including statements that the United States is a democracy; it's a constitutional republic, in Florida and too, Michigan. You can read more about that in this article from the Washington Post back in 2015, which concludes after a detailed argument,
But there is no basis for saying that the United States is somehow "not a democracy but a republic." "Democracy" and "republic" aren't just words that a speaker can arbitrarily define to mean something (e.g., defining democracy as "a form of government in which all laws are made directly by the people"). They are terms that have been given meaning by English speakers more broadly. And both today and in the Framing era, "democracy" has been generally understood to include representative democracy as well as direct democracy.
I'm sure that settles nothing, right?

So - Michigan has slowed the process considerably on the modifications, which you can read for yourself  - all 142 pages of it. The documents outline the entire social studies education plan from K-12. I haven't yet read the whole thing but what I did read scares the crap out of me.

Why? Because, to be honest, I'm not going to be able to pass first grade.

Seriously.

 Assuming the edits get approved in their entirety, here's what I'm supposed to know at the age of 6. Under the goal of 'Understand the core values and principles of our unique form of democracy, called a constitutional republic' I should be able to:
Explain fair ways to make decisions and resolve conflicts in the school community. 
The example provided for that first one is majority rule. Which wouldn't have meant all that much to me at that age. I mean, if my brothers and I all wanted to stay up past our bedtime, that would have meant 100% of the children wanted to do the same thing; not only that, but the three of us outnumbered the two parents - so what's am I supposed to be learning here, again?

Next, I should be able to:
Identify and explain how important symbols of the United States of America represent core values.  
And here are the examples of important symbols: Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam, White House, Bald Eagle. OK, those I can handle, I think. I could probably even color pictures of them, with the right crayons.

The core values? This where it gets fun:
  • equality 
  • rule of law 
  • unalienable rights 
  • limited government 
  • social compact theory, and 
  • the right of the people to alter or abolish an oppressive government
Limited government? Social compact theory? Altering or abolishing an oppressive government?  Come on! I'm SIX!

I get told when to get up, what to eat, what to wear (or perhaps, what not to wear would be more accurate), and when to go to bed. I have no unalienable rights, my 'government' is my mom and dad, and my rights to alter or abolish them is nonexistent.

I'm not going to get out of first grade, I swear.

September 13, 2018

Trump in Transition (v33)


Please...

Someone...

Anyone...


PLEASE --

for the sake of the country.

Make him stop tweeting.

Make him stop lying.

Just. Make. Him. Stop.


#MAGA





September 12, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v147)

Random noodling around tonight; we'll see where it takes us. There's certainly a lot going on out there to wonder about.

Do you wonder, listening to president Trump talk about Hurricane Florence, whether he's actually taking credit for her being the biggest one ever to hit the east coast? You hear him talk about his thinking, and that of other really smart people, and I honestly sense a little bit of pride there.
HAHAHA, Obama - take that!  My storm's way bigger than any of yours. Sad! Haahaha. And my hands too....hahahaha! It's going to be a fantastic disaster!! 
Sticking with the president, raise your hand if you have any idea what the president must have been thinking about when he gave a double fist pump and an angry sneer upon arriving at the 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania.  Personally I think he's terribly unphotogenic, and I think there have to have been more than a few purposefully bad pics of him published since he started his campaign, but here's the thing: you can't be photographed doing a double fist pump as you arrive at a memorial service if you don't do a double fist pump as you arrive at a memorial service. 

I'm wondering, for all you party-registered NY voters, if your phones are ringing off the hook with recommendations for tomorrow's primary, or if it's just me? For example, I had three phone calls from the Communications Workers of America -- my retired husband's union - in 12 minutes. Seriously. And they're calling me, not him, because he's an Independent and can't even vote in the primary for governor. I've had law firms calling to tell me to vote for a specific judicial candidate, and former judges calling for the same race, but a different person.

I've had calls on the Attorney General's race, the governor's race, my state senator - it's a battle royale I tell you.  Anyone willing to hazard a guess on the gubernatorial primary? Will it be the Sonofa Gov, incumbent Andrew Cuomo, or maybe the angry activist, former Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon? Or maybe Syracuse's former mayor Stephanie Miner, who's running as the representative of a new party?

Speaking of Nixon and Miner, should one of them overcome massive odds to win the primary, she would become the 16th woman with the chance to become their state's governor. I wonder who would have thunk that? Even more remarkable, according to the Barbara Lee Family Foundation,
There are currently six women governors, and the most we've ever had serving at one time was nine. Over the course of US history, only 39 women have eve served as their state's governor. Compare that to over 2,300 men.
I wonder if this will be the time the tide turns?

And finally, sticking with politics for the close, NY's 24th congressional district is a mess again, with boatloads of out-of-district money flooding in, like always. The incumbent John Katko is running snotty TV and radio ads during the lunch hour and the dinner hour, daily -- and we've got almost two months until the general election? I don't know about you, but I'm wondering of what he's afraid?

September 11, 2018

It's a Brand New Day

I'm sitting at my desk contemplating the televised launch of a group of American astronauts into space. Based on an article in the Washington Post, it would go something like this:
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Lockheed Martin/Kennedy Space Center launchpad, brought to you by WeatherTech in conjunction with Under Armour. I'm Buzz Lightyear, an animatron brought to you by Disney/Pixar.
We're here today to celebrate the launch of the all new Bud Light/ScotTissue rocket which will send our astronauts sponsored by Doritos Space Blast - a flavor that's out of this world - zooming into space in their Tommy Hilfiger uniforms and their new night vision/3d capable/5G GoPro helmets from Ralph Lauren Space.
We'll be tracking everything on our Quicken Loans launch metrics dashboard tracker; you can download that app, as well as the Kushner Companies astronaut voice tracker app, in the Apple Store and Google Play. 
Joining me now on the Boeing anchor desk designed by our friends at EA Sports are former astronaut and true American hero John Glenn, appearing holographically thanks to VNTANA from Arlington National Cemetery, and Jim Bridenstine, our NASA/Linked in Administrator.
With about 20 minutes left on the Omega launch countdown timer, let's get this party started! Thanks to Carls Jr for this delicious spread you see here, and to our friends at Dunkin Donuts for the SpaceJava extra bold roast coffee the actual humans here are enjoying today. So, Senator Glenn, I'd like to ask you...
Yep, that's right: Bridenstine is thinking we need a little more NASCAR in our NASA.
The constant creep of corporate America into all aspects of everyday life - from the Allstate Sugar Bowl to Minute Maid Park - may soon conquer a new frontier.
The final frontier.
 Apparently, he's asking for NASA to look into opportunities to sell the naming rights to rocket
Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets? I'm telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is I don't know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.
Or, maybe having the astronauts featured in commercials or on cereal boxes, like other 'celebrity athletes.'
I'd like to see kids growing up, instead of maybe wanting to be like a professional sports star, I'd like to see them grow up wanting to be a NASA astronaut or a NASA scientist. I'd like to see, maybe one day, NASA astronauts on the cover of a cereal box, embedded into the American culture.
Some of this, certainly, comes from the Trump Administration's pro-corporation/pro-privatization fetish, as we've seen with expanding corporate access to federal lands, and efforts to privatize the VA and other programs, including potentially ending direct funding for the International Space Station, something Congress is not happy about  - so much so that senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former astronaut Bill Nelson (D-FL) were in complete agreement on the issue.

And, this is not the first time this final frontier marketing stuff has come up. As noted in the WaPo article,
In 1993, a Georgia company called Space Marketing proposed putting a billboard in space so big that it would be visible from Earth. But the plan was met with disapproval form some in Congress, who derided the idea, saying space was a commons that should stay free of advertising. 
 Edward J. Markey, then a Massachusetts congressman, lamented the possibility of children wishing "upon a falling billboard."
"Every sunrise and sunset would beam down the logo of Coke or GM or the Marlboro Man," he said. That would turn our morning and evening skies, often a source of inspiration and comfort, into the moral equivalent of the side of a bus." 
Yeah, but can't you see it?? A Heinz ketchup commercial, with 'Anticipation' in the background, as we wait for the sweet red blob to fall from space and land, a perfect 10, on a 100% all-American  hamburger somewhere in the heartland? Talk about #MAGA!

Of course, there's always a chance that Congress will change their collective mind - especially if we let our elected officials show their own brand loyalty.

 

September 10, 2018

Whose Fault is This Again?

At some point, likely on September 20th, I read, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to approve the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If the timing is right and everything goes according to plan, he'll then quickly be confirmed by the full Senate (I'm guessing with at least a couple of Democrats going along) and will take his seat on the bench on the first Monday of October.

The hearings were as we expected - Kavanaugh bobbed and weaved like a boxer to not answer simple yes or no questions. He got softballs from the Republicans, along the lines of "you're a helluva guy, aren't you, Brett?" and presidentially consequential questions from Dems, some of whom might be in the mix for 2020. Kavanaugh was admonished to 'be careful' how he answered certain questions, as if the hearing room had a bunch of shoes hanging from the ceiling, waiting to drop. None did - at least, not yet. Maybe they're saving those for the big show, the full vote on the Senate floor?

We had protesters (they got removed); we had some documents and we didn't have others, and then we had them, but we didn't read them because there wasn't time; and we released others (Cory I, Spartacus Booker), but they had already been released a few hours earlier (oops). Good theater, but unlikely to make a difference. And there was Akhil Reed Amar, a Yale Law professor; while he offered words in support of Kavanaugh, he had these words of caution for the Dems:
Don't be mad. He's smart. Be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you'll likely end up with someone worse.
That, like death and taxes, seems certain, doesn't it?

Lisa Murkowski, the moderate Republican from Alaska, is facing a lot of pressure to vote no, as is Maine's Senator Susan Collins, who has received thousands of wire coat hangers, symbolizing what was before Roe v. Wade, which Kavanaugh could will threaten. But hey - he hired lots of women and minorities, and he coaches basketball!

He could also threaten lots of other things, too - voting rights, rights of disabled; LGBTQ equality, and so on, but that is a consequence of elections, right? We knew all about those consequences when Mitch McConnell slowed approval of Obama appointees to the federal bench after the Ds lost control of Congress, and of course when he refused to allow consideration at all on the appointment of Merrick Garland.

But while the Garland debacle was primarily McConnell's fault, there's blame elsewhere too, according to this article from June. Consider blaming Barack Obama and whoever it was who convinced him Merrick Garland was the right person to nominate for Justice Scalia's seat.
For example, imagine if Barack Obama had nominated the first African-American woman to the Supreme Court - one who was young and unabashedly progressive in her jurisprudence. When McConnell subsequently vetoed her appointment - and thereby nullified Obama's attempt to give a modicum of representation in the halls of high power to the Democratic Party's most loyal constituency - wouldn't it have been easier to mobilize the Democratic base in outrage, than it was to rally them behind Merrick Garland?
Democrats could have painted McConnell's unprecedented act of obstruction as one of racial animus. Then, when Republicans persisted, they could have combined this identify-based appeal with paid advertisements spotlighting how the Roberts Court had eviscerated voting rights, legalized bribery, disempowered consumers, and abetted the dominance of employers over workers - while explaining how Antonin Scalia's replacement could exacerbate these horrors, or reverse them. Hillary Clinton could have campaigned on a promise to install Obama's nominee after November, and invited progressive voters to elect the first woman to the presidency - and (effectively) the first African-American woman to the Supreme Court.
The author, Eric Levitz, notes that this approach might not have been enough to have held onto the Rust Belt and prevented Trump's victory, but there would have been much more attention paid to the consequences of a Red presidential win on the Court. And, he suggests, the message from the Dems against McConnell's obstruction- that we need nine justices because, well, that's how many we're supposed to have - was also unmotivating for the base, and essentially added insult to injury.

So, here we are, facing the consequences of Obama's 'safe' pick of Garland, of Mitch McConnell's iron hold on his caucus, and of all the 'whatever the hell happened' in 2016.

Barack Obama is out on the stump now, telling us that our apathy is the biggest threat to our democracy. At the same time, he's telling us that the problems we're facing now stem from politicians playing to their worst element, for a long time:
It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He's just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.
Solving this is not going to be easy; after all, apathy comes from somewhere, from something, and we need to figure that out, and find people to vote for who can address those needs.

The midterms will be a good test: do we have people to vote for, instead of against? Are the candidates fanning the flames of passion for the future of the country, or fanning the selfish, resentful tribal flames Obama mentioned?

All I know is, if people don't vote now, they're probably never going to.

September 9, 2018

Sunday School 9/9/18

We had an interesting situation today: two key administration officials, vice-president Mike Pence and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway appeared in two classrooms, so those are the only sessions I'll be looking at today.

Pence appeared via pre-recorded interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday and with Margaret Brennan on CBS' Face the Nation. Conway visited with Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union, and with Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press; let's start with highlights from her conversations.
  • On the credibility of the author of the NY Times op-ed, Conway's consistent message was that there was credibility granted automatically because the message was anti-Trump. Tapper noted that he gave the op-ed more credibility once members of the administration tripped all over themselves to let everyone know they were not the author.
  • On what would happen if the author's identify was known: all of the news shows would clear their slates, clear their tables, and put the person on the air immediately
  • On the possibility of the DOJ investigating to identify the author for 'national security', as Trump suggested, that all stems from not knowing who the person is or what information they have access to, so it could be national security but we don't know. Tapper suggested investigating someone who did nothing wrong by penning an op-ed to see if they did something wrong separately was wrong, but Conway didn't seem to care. 
  • On whether she stalled/stopped Bob Woodward from talking to Trump, she denied that was the case. On both shows, she said she 'brought the request back' but not directly to the president, and the request was denied. She could have taken it to Trump, but doesn't say who she did take it to.
  • A few of her notable quotables (because she always leaves a few pearls on the floor whenever she goes on the shows: "the line between arrogance and ignorance' and 'motivated by conceit and deceit' and 'the four corners of an op-ed or the four corners of a book.' 
Pence was his usual self - stern, presidential (oops --sorry, vice presidential) when talking to Chris Wallace. For example, on President Obama coming front and center on the campaign trail:
Well, it was very disappointing to see President Obama break with the tradition of former Presidents and become so political and roll out the same tired arguments that he and liberals have made over the last 8 years. The truth is the American people in 2016 rejected the policy and direction of Barack Obama when they elected president Donald Trump...
He suggested to Brennan that Trump is the cat's meow of presidents. Seriously:
I mean the truth is I think president Donald Trump is the most accomplished president of my lifetime and I think already one of the most successful presidents in American history - in our first two years. 
With both Wallace and Brennan, he defended the president chastising AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for the Justice Department's investigations into two apparent crooks in the House.  First, the exchange with Wallace.
CW: The president tweeted, "Two very popular Republican congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge just ahead of the midterms by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff." The president is saying, play politics. Protect members of Congress even if they have committed acts of corruption before the election.
MP: No, I don't think that's what the president was saying at all. Look, the DOJ, as you know, has long-standing guidelines...that say whenever possible the Justice Department should avoid taking any actions that may impact an election. Now the president was referring to that and the difficulty - 
CW: These are two people, one supposedly committing insider trading and the other one who was living high off campaign funds. Are you saying they should be protected because we are close to the midterms?
MP:  They are all very serious allegations and they ought to be pursued but I think the president was referring to the long-standing tradition in the Justice Department to avoid unnecessarily impacting election outcomes and perhaps preventing other men and women from stepping forward and filling those slots in the future.
Which, of course, men and women can do when it's time to fill the seats of these two crooks, but I digress.  Brennan, getting a similar response on the DOJ not 'unnecessarily' impacting elections, took a slightly different tack:
MB: So Jeff Sessions, you agree, was correct in his actions?
MP: What I want to say, Margaret, is what the American people appreciate is this president says what he thinks. He lets people know what he feels about things, but and - and - and really in a very real sense, what you see is what you get with president Donald Trump. And I think that's the reason why he's made the connection that he's made with people all across this country because -
MB:  But - but with something like that --
MP: Washington DC - while Washington DC focuses on -
MB: - when it has to do with a legal matter 0
MP:  - these various controversies - 
MB:  - people argue that that's dangerous - 
MP:  - he's focused on their interests.
MB: That may be  - that may be what he thinks, but there's a danger to saying things like that because it suggests that the rule of law should be subjugated to politics.
MP: No -  this is a president who has strongly affirmed our commitment to the rule of law and to the, to our justice system.
Um, sure. We strongly believe in justice and the rule of law except when it messes with out ability to hold a majority in Congress -- got it.

With Wallace, he talked about Syria, and mentioned chemical weapons several times, even as Wallace tried to steer him away from that very specific act of war. 
CW: Let's say it's not chemical weapons, let's say it's barrel bombs, let's say it's conventional weapons, are we going to let hundreds of thousands of people die there, sir?
And then
CW:  But, sir, dead is dead. I understand - I take your point about the chemical weapons.
Pence, for his part, talked about chemical weapons - twice - when he finally answered the question that was specifically asking about not chemical weapons.
MP: I want to make it very, very clear. There's a wider world watching, is that the United States of America and our allies will take swift and decisive action against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib province. Beyond that I will tell you that we are watching very carefully as resources are being marshaled along the border of the Idlib province. 
And I'm confident there will be a decision by the president of the United States, but I'm confident that we will be monitoring that very, very carefully to ensure that we don't see another humanitarian catastrophe like we did before.
Like I said, Pence was doing his darnedest to sound presidential, just in case there's anything to that book and that op-ed...

See you around campus.

September 7, 2018

TGIF 9/7/18

How was your week?

The president had an interesting one, it seems. First there was Fear, Trump in the White House, the new book by Bob Woodward, in which everyone who works for the president says the same stuff about him as my friends (on both ends of the political spectrum, to be sure).

You know: crazy town, elementary school understanding of issues, lots of name calling, lots of out-in-left-field idea like assassinating foreign leaders, and stuff like that. Did I mention name calling? That apparently goes both ways - administration folks calling Trump names, and of course the president doing his best keeping up with them.

The book is out on 9/11 - perhaps that's a particularly pointed jab at the president. I can almost hear the update from the Terrorism Alert Desk...

And then there was the weird op-ed from the anonymous senior official in the Trump administration, which came with this dramatic editorial note:
The Times is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.
 From the author, we see things like this:
It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't.
The result is a two-track presidency. 
Um, OK, I guess.  There aren't a lot of details, or a lot of news.  It might even be a nothing burger, as Trumps like to say, except for all of the denying authorship and guessing who might have been the author. And the fact that the president things Jeff  - that would be Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III - might need to do some poking around.

That would make it much more interesting, for sure, especially since the haystack from which he'd need to find the needle could be as many as 4,000 presidential appointees and Senate-confirmed employees. Or, depending on your definition of 'senior official' it could be maybe a dozen or so.  Fun time, fun times.

Who else had an interesting week?  How about Nike? Just do it, someone said - stick with a tradition of  having athletes say controversial things, or have controversial athletes say non-controversial things, just like they've been doing all these years. And it seems to have worked out just fine.


After initial reaction from folks who were aghast at the selection of Colin Kaepernick as the face of the 30th anniversary Just Do It campaign, the stock fell a few points, and several people posted videos of themselves burning their Nike gear.

Which led to the best PSA ever.  Well, maybe not better than the crying Indian, or the first Smokey the Bear, but it's up there.

I expect this coming week will be calmer - Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed and there'll be Democrats voting for him, I'm sure.

Barack Obama will make another speech, as will the president, both stumping for their desired outcome in the upcoming midterms.

The spectacle of protesters being dragged out of a Senate hearing room will be forgotten, quickly - probably almost as quickly as plaid shirt guy, the nonconforming Trump 'fan' who was replaced during the president's ramblin wreck of a rally in Montana.

TGIF, everyone.

September 5, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v146)

Let's ponder, let's wonder, about the op-ed that appeared in the NY Times this afternoon.

The piece was published anonymously, at the request of the author.  That person, a senior official, requested anonymity because his or her job would be in jeopardy otherwise.  The author's identity is known to the Times.
President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader. 
It's not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump's leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the house to an opposition hellbent on his downfall. 
The dilemma - which he does not fully grasp - is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to  frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them.
Holy defending America, Batman. Holy resistance. Not that kind of resistance, the author points out - not the capital R kind, but the kind that seeks to have the president be successful, and at the same time honor their duty to country first. And the country needs protecting from Trump's worst instincts, it seems.

And, of course, there's that other thing, the thing we've known for a long time:
The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
Here's one more, before we move on. After telling us that we'll be OK because "there are adults in the room", the author notes the following:
The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.
No wondering there, right?  I mean, that has seemed pretty clear all along.

Also something about which I don't have to wonder are these comments I saw on a post slamming Colin Kaepernick and Nike for the 30th anniversary #JustDoIt campaign. The comments from this person echo the comments of the anonymous senior administration official who penned the Times commentary.

Take a look:
Wow, one of the biggest problems in this country is poor, disrespectful communication. If we take the time to listen to one another, then maybe we can come to a place of mutual understanding.
...I understand how you feel about this protest and I respect your right to feel that way but respect my right  to see it from a different perspective. I have several family members that have served and retired from the military. My great uncle and my great grandfather served in WW2. While serving, they were not allowed to stay in the nice barracks because (those) were for whites only. While serving in the war they were called n@@ger over and over again. When they came home from the war they had to ride in the back of the bus; they couldn't drink at the nice water fountain or use the bathroom because it was for whites only; they couldn't eat in the dining area of the restaurants because it was for whites only.; they couldn't swim in the public FEDERALLY FUNDED pool or play in the park because it was for whites only. Many black soldiers were beat up for wearing their uniform in public and some were lynched for wearing their military uniform for the country they served.  My cousin served in Vietnam, came home and was murdered by the police for mistake in identity. The autopsy determined his hands were up because he had bullet wounds on the inside of is arms. Now the police are killing unarmed black men and going home to be with their families. 
I love America and choose to stand during the Anthem, however I understand and support their right to protest. That is our constitution and the very right our soldiers fought for.
 I have a question for you, if we took our flag and a human being and sat them in front of God, which one would God deem more important? The flag or human life?
This is not for the sake of arguing but to bring us to a place of mutual understanding. God bless you and your family. 
I've got to say, I don't think there's any wondering about the patriotism of the comment's author, or that of his family. Or about the choice God would make if presented with the choice this writer describes.

September 4, 2018

Standing for Something

No dream is too big. No challenge is too great. Nothing we want for our future is beyond our each. ~Donald Trump

To say nothing is saying something. You must denounce things that you are against or one might believe that you support things you really do not. ~Germany Kent

If you stand for something you will have people for you and people against you. But if you stand for nothing you will have nobody for you and nobody against you. ~ Maurice Saatchi

You must stand for something! It does not have to be grand, but it must be a positive that brings light to someone else's darkness. ~Anthony Carmona

I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people and I don't, frankly, have time for total political correctness. ~Donald Trump

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.~Winston Churchill

Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for - because unless we stand for something,we shall fall for anything. ~ Peter Marshall

It's not easy to stand up against your constituents or your friends or colleagues or your community and take a tough stand for something you believe is right. Because you always want to keep working and live to fight another battle and it might cost you your career. ~Caroline Kennedy

There's always opposition when you do something big. I do many things that are controversial. When people see it, they love it! ~Donald Trump

I want to stand for something, and it's probably going to be something that some people stand against. ~Blake Shelton

Don't believe that winning is really everything. It's more important to stand for something. If you don't stand for something, what do you win? ~Lane Kirkland

When you stand for something, you've got to stand for it all the way, not just half way.~ Kevin Gates

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. ~Donald Trump

Image from Colin Kaepernick



September 3, 2018

Last Words from a Daughter and Her Father

In this week's Sunday School post, I shared some of my favorite excerpts from the many eulogies of Senator John McCain, and promised today I'd share more from two final sets of remarks - those of Meghan McCain on her father, and those of the late senator himself, in a message to America.

#PromisesKept, as they say. Here are some of Meghan's comments:
"The world is a fine place and worth fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it."
When Ernest Hemingway's Robert Jordan, at the close of For Whom the Bell Tolls lies wounded, waiting for his last fight, these are among his final thoughts. My father had every reason to think the world was an awful place. My father had every reason to think the world was not worth fighting for. My father had every reason to think the world was worth leaving.  He did not think any of those things. Like the hero of his favorite book, John McCain took the opposite view: You had to have a lot of luck to have had such a good life. 
I am here before you today saying the words I never wanted to say, giving the speech I have never wanted to give, feeling the loss I never wanted to feel. My father is gone. John Sidney McCain III was many things. He was a sailor, he was an aviator, he was a husband, he was a warrior; he was a prisoner, he was a hero, he was a Congressman, he was a Senator, he was a nominee for President of the United States. These are all of the titles and roles of a life that's been well lived. They're not the greatest of his titles, nor the most important of his roles. 
...the best of John McCain, the greatest of his titles and the most important of his roles was as a father. 
Imagine the warrior of the night skies gently carrying his little girl to bed. Imagine the dashing aviator who took his aircraft hurtling off pitching decks in the South China Sea, kissing the hurt when I fell and skinned my knee. Imagine the distinguished statesman who counseled presidents singing with his girl in Oak Creek during a rainstorm to Singing in the Train. Imagine the senator, fierce conscience of the nation's best self, taking his 14-year-old daughter out of school because he believed I would learn more about America at the town halls he held across the country. Imagine the loyal veteran with his eye shining with happiness as he gave blessing for his grown daughter's marriage. You have to imagine that. I don't have to, because I lived it all. I know who he was; I know what defined him. I got to see it every single day of my blessed life... John McCain was defined by love...
Dad, I love you, I always have. All that I am, all that I hope, all that I dream is grounded in what you taught me. You loved me and you showed me what love must be. An ancient Greek historian wrote, "The image of great men is woven into the stuff of other men's lives."  Dad, your greatness is woven into my life, it is woven into my mother's life, into my sister's life, and it is woven into my brothers' lives. It is woven in the the life and liberty of the country you sacrificed so much to defend...
And finally, from John McCain himself; the full contents of his letter can be found here.
...I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth.I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my live, all of it. I have had experiences, adventure and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else's.
I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America's causes - liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people - brings happiness more sublime than life's fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by servicing good causes bigger than ourselves...
We are three-hundred-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometime even vilify each other in our raucous public debates but we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do...
Do not despair our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.