Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30, 2016--Bad Cop, Good Cop

Not that any of this is necessarily intentional, but Barack Obama finally deciding what to do to "punish" Russia for hacking into our electoral process, could offer Donald Trump an opportunity to reset relations with them. With "them" meaning Vladimir Putin.

Here's how it could work--

Clearly no-drama-Obama wanted nothing to do with this, looking to run out the clock on his presidency by not getting entangled in any last minute messes. If he was eager to retaliate, he would have done so weeks ago and not required relentless prompting and criticism by members of Congress from both parties.

And, of course, his move yesterday to expel 35 so-called Russian "diplomats," who are in fact spies, was at least equally motivated by a desire to poke president-in-waiting Donald Trump in the political eye as another form of retaliation for managing to get under even unflappable Obama's skin by dominating the news and not leaving the stage to Obama alone who is entitled to a un-interfered-with final bow.

As David Sanger reported in this morning's New York Times, Obama's move may effectively "box" Trump in.

What is Trump supposed to do with this in his desire "to make a deal" with Putin? Three weeks from today tell the Russians never mind, your 35 spies are welcome to return to the United States?

Republican leaders such as John McCain who hate Trump and are chomping to reset the Cold War while Democratic hawks such as Chuck Schumer are calling for more sanctions would have strokes if Trump were to reverse Obama's actions because, as he put it in his statement about this, it's "time to move on to bigger and better things." Whatever that means.

Trump wants a clear path to a deal with Putin but may now be flummoxed by a cagy Obama, having the last laugh and reminding the upstart that a presidency isn't over until it's over..

So here's the possible Trump trump move--

It's dawn the morning after the inauguration. Trump is as usual not sleeping. Rather than sending out a tweet, he somehow manages to restrain himself and rings Putin on the phone. After a few affectionate exchanges he says to Putin that he has an idea for a deal that would benefit each of them.

"Let's move quickly to reset things before the anti-Russians set in motion by bad-cop Barack Obama, who finally showed some cojones, pushes both of us into a new bankrupting arms race.

"Let's make the centerpiece of that resetting a solution that the two of us impose in Syria. Forget Turkey, they are a ridiculous country and not trustworthy allies. Let's take a chance and trust each other. Your economy is in a state of collapse and the congressional parties here are working to dominate the agenda even before I shake the confetti from that stupid parade out of my hair.

"You are looking to assert power and with us again become a dominate nation, even though, I don't have to remind you, your economy is the size of pathetic Italy's.

"What do you say, Vlad? Let's make a deal."

Who know? It just might work.

On the other hand, Putin might be loving things just the way they are and is playing Trump like the old KGB officer he was.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29, 2016--The Year In Reading

At the end of each year, the New York Times asks an assortment of creative people what they have been reading.

They get interesting responses from a cross-section of avid readers and writers from Junot Diaz to Margaret Atwood to Joseph Ellis. But also from a mix of non-literary types such as Bryan Cranston, Paul Simon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Though maybe with Bob Dylan having won a Nobel, Paul Simon is not so easily categorizable.

Depending on one's own literary aspirations and pretensions you can peruse in wonder Salman Rushdie's top dozen of the cool and exotic or sneak a peek at what Kareem has on his bedside table.

I can't wait to pick up Abdul-Jabbar's recommended poems by Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. But I'm not racing to get Valeria Luiselli's, The Story of My Teeth, listed by Rushdie.

I know Salman, he's a friend, but really?

Writers can be very competitive. I should rephrase that--writers are very competitive and I am certain that all who were invited to participate took hours coming up with a list that would not only be (sort of) true but would interest--let me rephrase that--impress readers and even trump their colleagues' picks.

No one, for example, would consider listing All the Light We Cannot See, even though it won a Pulitzer and has lingered on the Times best sellers list for 131 weeks, or maybe All the Light would be actively ignored because of these achievements.

Nor would any writer wanting to show off his or her esoteric side or the global reach of their readings even hint at mentioning anything escapist from the likes of John Grisham, though it would be more honest to list some guilty-pleasure reading, which we know everyone occasionally engages in, as that would make strivers such as me feel better about sneaking off with something from James Patterson, which to limit judgmental looks I read with the dust jacket slipped off.

Instead in the Times' Year In Reading we have Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk listing Halldor Laxness' Independent People, set among Icelandic farmers, and essayist Mary Oliver taking note of the work of Patricia Fargnoli, New Hampshire's poet laureate.

Competitive myself, and something of a compulsive reader, if the Times as an inclusive gesture to its average readers was ever to ask me for my list, I already have it ready--

Moby Dick
Don Quixote
The Brothers Karamazov
The Iliad
Finnegan's Wake
Madame Bovary (in the original)
And Peter Balakian's poems, Ozone Journal, which, sorry, did win the Pulitzer.

Salman Rushdie

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28, 2016--Boys Will Be Boys

Yesterday's political flap was tripped off by Barack Obama.

In a podcast interview with his former senior advisor, David Axelrod, alpha-male Obama claimed that if the Constitution allowed it, he could have beaten alpha-male Donald Trump and been elected to a third term.

God help us. We don't need any more Syrias, not that Trump and his national security team make me feel nationally secure.

In Obama's somewhat tortured words, he said--
I'm confident that if I--if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it. I know that in conversations that I've had around the country, even some people who disagree with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.
Help me out here with what the meaning of "it" is. But I do get the larger boast--that he could have whopped Trump's ass.

Trump, never one for subtlety but with an unusual touch of class, couldn't resist and with his small hands took up the challenge in a quick tweeted response--
President Obama says that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY!--jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.
But one thing Obama did get right--he acknowledged to Axelrod that Democrats are not effectively addressing the needs of working people. They're not doing a good job of communicating "that we understand why they're frustrated."
We're not there on the ground communicating not only the policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we're bleeding for these communities. . . . It means caring about local races, state boards or school boards and city councils and state legislative races, and not thinking that somehow a great set of progressive policies, that we present to the New York Times editorial board, will win the day.
I've been attempting to make this point here now for nearly two years but never managed to say it half as well as President Obama.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27, 2016--Relapse

The cough, etc. is back and so I'll be taking the day off. But will return on Wednesday.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26, 2016--Our Israeli Allies

I'm prepared again to be accused of being a self-hating Jew.

But because of the explosion of rhetoric about the U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Israel's "settlement" practices, especially the outrage expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--much of it directed at the United States in the person of Barack Obama--impels me to speak out.

For all intents and purposes the annexation of the occupied territories by building homes there for Israeli Jews is against international law. But it proceeds apace with more than 500,000 Jews now living, or settled, on the West Bank, which was seized from Jordanian Palestinians in 1967 as the result of Israel winning the Six-Day War.

Under pressure from the United States, though periodically and grudgingly dragged into negotiations with Palestinian representatives in an effort to forge a lasting peace that can only come after there is agreement about the details of what a two-state "solution" would look like, Israeli leaders for decades have pretended to be interested but never, except briefly, suspended the bulldozing, the building, or the resettlement of Jews on the Islamic West Bank. They have done this in the guise of securing their borders but in reality to change the facts on the ground. To in this way assert that the West Bank is a part of Greater Israel.

And until this past week, whenever the issue of a two-state solution or to criticize the settlement practices has come before the U.N. Security Council, the United States, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has used its veto power to block the resolutions.

That is, until Friday when Obama with less than a month remaining in his presidency finally unburdened himself, allowing his true feelings to show, by directing U.N. ambassador Samantha Power to abstain, effectively allowing the condemnation of Israel to proceed. The resolution promptly passed, 14-0.

This led immediately to a storm of criticism. First from swaggering president-elect Donald Trump who postured via a tweet that things "will be different January 20th" and then later from Netanyahu who said he can't wait for Trump to become president.

What an unholy alliance.

They were quickly joined by members of Congress from both parties. It seems that unflinching support for the Israeli government is the one issue about which members of both parties reflexively agree. All say that Israel is not just the only democracy in the Middle East but that they are also America's "most important ally." Not just in the region but globally.

I've heard this my entire life from family-member Zionists who made excuses for the abuses of one Israeli government after another, and, of course, all of the serious media across the ideological spectrum, since 1948, have done much the same thing--from the New York Times to Fox News.

What jumped out at me this time was the claim about Israel being our most important ally.

Israel is not that.

It is possible to see them as an undesirable ally.  And that the nature of our alliance does not contribute to peace or security for either them or us.

In fact, Israel may be our most dangerous ally.

Every time another Palestinian village is leveled or another apartment house constructed on the West Bank, Israel makes new enemies for themselves and for us. Images of settlement activity engenders hatred and serves to help recruit terrorists worldwide.

Israel's very existence contributes to similar sentiments and though Israel does have a legal and moral right to a homeland, even nationhood, but not when it insists on continuing to expand its borders by encroaching on the territories of neighboring countries. And, of course, resists any possibility of the Palestinians having a state of their own.

These practices have contributed to the Middle East becoming the most dangerous region in the world, one that has sucked us into various wars and acts of aggression with hundreds of thousands on all sides killed and maimed and which have cost us $3.0 to $5.0 trillion borrowed dollars.

What that is positive have we received from our alliance with Israel?

I have been thinking about this for quite a while and cannot think of much that is worth the cost. At most, they share intelligence with us gathered by Mossad, their excellent intelligence agency. And some high-tech U.S. businesses have formed useful partnerships with Israeli firms. Not enough in either case to justify the geopolitical price our uncritical relationship with them has imposed upon us.

Of course there is the long historical memory of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi that saw more than six million European Jews exterminated. This does without question put the Jewish people in a special category of concern and reparation. But that commitment should be, originally was, to the Jewish people, not the regressive governments of Israel. It is important to keep that separation in mind when thinking about the current threatening situation.

And there is more--

Part of the almost universal support for Israel by American governments and citizens also has a religious foundation.

Millennialists of all kinds from Christian apocalyptic fundamentalists to ultra-orthodox Jews who are waiting for the Messiah to apppear (in Hebrew, the Mashiach) see Israel, again Greater Israel, or as they prefer, Judea and Samaria, as playing an essential role in bringing about the End Times. It is only when all of Greater Israel is united that the conditions will be in place to begin the process of unleashing Armageddon and the Millennium.

With eyes wide open, this is the world America has been drawn into.

I am not sure it is in our best interests to rush to get entangled further. Let's see if Donald Trump can figure this out and make a deal to de-intensify matters. At the moment, considering his choice to be our ambassador to Israel, he is on a hot course to make things worse. And in the Middle East worse often means catastrophe.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23, 2106--Sick Day

I've got a thick cold and so no typing. I will return on Monday with, "It's Culture, Stupid."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22, 2016--Liberals Need to Fess Up

If we progressives are to rescue our political souls we need to begin by doing some fessing up.

I'll begin and then maybe you will consider doing the same.

Since 1981, Ronald Reagan's first year as president, most liberals have been big beneficiaries of conservative fiscal policy. Especially tax policy.

Though publicly rueing the dramatic cuts he and Congress pushed through, privately and unconfessedly we have done very well.

The Reagan tax cuts followed years later by the Bush tax cuts (re-upped by Barack Obama) were of benefit primality to upper-middle-income people. Not just the top 1-percent but most who were just upper-middle-class. Millions and millions of Americans with advanced education comfortably slotted into the professional, knowledge-working sectors of the economy.

People like me.

These are approximate numbers that reveal how I have fared thanks to Reagan, Bush, and even Obama--

Since 2001 when the Bush cuts took effect, Rona and I have paid at least $5,000 less a year in taxes. Over the course of these 15 years this totals $75,000.

Not bad, not bad at all.

This savings funds a lot of our lifestyle since it is discretionary income.

And the good times for us in this regard, with Donald Trump about to become president, look as if they will continue to roll. Maybe even accelerate. The stock market is so happy that the Dow is about to top 20,000 and our portfolio of stocks in only six weeks, thanks to the Trump Rally, has gone up more than 6-percent.

No bad, not bad at all.

All the time this has been happening, I have moaned and ranted here and among equally-privledged friends about the unfairness of the economic system, focusing my outrage primarily on how, as the result of right-wing fiscal policy, inequality has grown worse.

While all the time I and we have been thriving, millions are being left behind.

This looks and feels like hypocrisy to me.

And among the hypocrites you will find me.

Then, what else has been going on?

Again, since Reagan's time, white working-class and lower-middle-class Democrats have been drifting rightward. When the media noticed this phenomenon, they called these voters "Reagan Democrats," and a few weeks ago these same Democrats became "Trump Democrats," and their votes are propelling him to the White House.

All the while, what have many of us liberals been up to? Trying to enjoy ourselves, leaving the social policy agenda to Republican conservatives who have delivered more to us than the people whom they claim they represent.

I don't know about you, but I haven't noticed myself sending an additional $5,000 "equity" check to the IRS every April 15th with my tax returns.

Instead, at that time, I'm typically planning my next vacation in Maine and trip to Italy.

If we don't begin by taking an honest look at our own lives we will have no chance of overtaking the political forces at work. We used to be the party of "the working man." Now we are the party of self-indulgence and condescension.

More about that tomorrow.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016--Obama's Political Legacy

There's lot of talk about Barack Obama's legacy. There's much that is positive to take note of and important things that will complicate the way he is remembered.

In regard to the latter there is the rupture in our relationship with Russia and chaos everywhere in the Middle East for which he is at least partially responsible.

The positive side of the ledger includes the impressive though imperfect Obamacare, the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, the stimulus and economic recovery, and Wall Street reform.

Of a different sort is his political legacy. How many Democrats of high caliber did he inspire to seek high office and how did they in general fare?

By any measure, not very well--

Between 2009 and now there are 12 fewer Democratic governors, 900+ fewer Democratic state legislature seats, 69 fewer Democratic House members, and 13 fewer senators.

And, yes, one less Democratic president--Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton will be inaugurated next month.

This is not the meaning of life, but to progressives who care about the future of the Democratic Party the data require that we search for why this political tsunami swept so many away, wiping out a host of next-generation candidates.

The focus naturally has been on the results of the presidential election. If Democrats engaged in the forensics continue to cling to the notion that Clinton lost because of FBI director Jim Comey's letters and Putin's and Russian hacking, the numbers of elected officials will continue to slide further right.

For one, it's essential to acknowledge that Hillary was a terrible candidate who didn't have a convincing story about why she wanted to be president. Saying it was to make history by electing a woman or because it was her turn, ignored what elections are about--not the candidates, but the people they seek to represent.

For all his craziness, Trump did a much better job of presenting himself. How could a billionaire who lives in an actual gilded penthouse represent himself successfully as a friend of working people? How could someone with an orange face, three wives, and a lifetime of overt sexism gain the votes of 53 percent of white women?

We need to find answers to these questions. And very soon.

I've suggested here that a good analysis of the problems can be found in Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal.

The fact that Democratic Party leaders continue to be stuck on Comey and Putin prompts me to assign it as required reading.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20, 2016--Trumpian Times

With exactly one month to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated, there is already evidence that "the system" is working." As it has during our entire history.

Yes, I know, but keep reading.

This may not please born-in-America radicals who, right or left, want to see the system overthrown and replaced by their own version of libertarian or authoritarian utopias. But we have weathered various forms of dangerous times and one way or the other came out the other side. Changed, but fundamentally intact.

The latest concerns about the strength of the system involves worry that with Trump as president democracy is threatened. In Sunday's New York Times Review section, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote--
Donald Trump's election raised a question that few Americans ever imagined asking: is our democracy in danger? With the possible exception of the Civil War, American democracy has never collapsed. . . . Yet past stability is no guarantee to democracy's future survival.
They calm down a bit and then conclude--
American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If ordinary circumstances prevail, our institutions will most likely prevail, our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency.
This leaves the implication that though collapse is not, in their word, "imminent," if there is a crisis of 9/11 proportions, they wonder out loud what a president "with authoritarian tendencies" will do.

This concern/fear conforms to what I continue to hear from progressive friends.

For example I was stopped at the elevator the other day by a neighbor who we know to be totally rational and unflappable. A very successful  commodities trader. He leaned uncharacteristically close so as not to be overheard--though there was no one in sight--and in whispers shared his dystopian vision of what an unfettered Donald Trump will bring down upon us. It didn't take him very long to evoke reminders of strongmen such as Mussolini and Hitler.

I must admit, I tuned him out not wanting to have my day spoiled or my opinion about his rationality impeached.

And then when I returned from doing a raft of chores there were three emails from friends equally agitated. One concluded with fear about what that "psycho facist" is planning for America.

I tapped out a few things in response but had no illusion that there was anything I could say that would help him get through this. Except, I suppose, agree, though I suspect not even that would help.

Another friend just today wrote about her fear that the promiscuous Republican Congress will "roll over" for whatever Trump wants to do, including ending Social Security and Medicare, both of which she and her husband depend upon. "If the Electoral College or federal courts don't stop him--and I mean soon-it will be the end of the system and we will begin to look like Syria."

Since she is an American history buff, here's a portion of what I wrote back to her--
You know even more than I that the so-called "system" was designed by our Founders to include all sorts of checks and balances to assure that the United States would never be headed by a monarch, dictator, or tyrant. Having lived under that sort of rule, they made sure that the Constitution limited the power of the presidency by assigning most authority to Congress and the states. 
Though since the mid 20th century more power than ever has accrued to the president, Congress, with the assistance of the increasingly powerful federal courts, still can undo anything they deem to be overreaching or unconstitutional. 
Franklin Roosevelt discovered this when Congress refused to go along with his plan to "pack" the Supreme Court. He didn't like their decisions to curtail some of his favorite New Deal programs. FDR was very popular but Congress ultimately limited his authority. 
When in the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy was amassing power due to his unfettered pursuit of alleged Communist infiltration of the federal government, just when it looked as if he might win the Republican nomination for president and even the election, the press and a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress stepped in to censure him and in that way pushed back successfully to thwart his demagogic appeal. 
And of course there was Richard Nixon who turned the federal government into a criminal enterprise. Eventually he was impeached and forced to resign the presidency.  
I could go on but want at the end to mention evidence that Congress, under the control of Republicans, even before Trump is sworn in, is moving to investigate the Russian hacking of the recent election. Something Trump does not want Congress to do. Ignoring him, they are making plans to proceed. Among other things, it's also a muscle-flexing signal to him not to take them for granted.
So, my friend, try to keep one eye on history and the other on Trump because he may need to be resisted when he moves beyond talk and Cabinet nominations and begins to actually do things. Until proven otherwise, I'm betting on the "system" to prevail.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016--The "System"

Tomorrow's blog will be about the "system." How well it is already working during Trumpian times.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 16, 2016--Back Monday

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 15, 2016--Am I Missing Something?

If I am, it wouldn't be the first time.

When newly-inaugurated president Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called for the re-normalization of relations with Russia, in the person of Vladimir Putin, progressives supported that and even chuckled when Clinton brought an actual reset button with her as a present to Putin on her first official visit to Moscow.

Thankfully, we felt, we no longer had a president who proclaimed that he looked in "the man's eye and found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy." The "man" of course was Putin.

We know how that worked out. First with Bush and now with Obama, who not only can't exchange a civil word with Putin or look him int the eye but, more dangerously, we have Russia allied with the murderous Syrian regime, perpetrating a holocaust on opponents to the Assad government, while we stand by impudently doing nothing.

And now we know officially that Putin's people hacked their way into the middle of our recent election in an attempt to bring Clinton down and tip the election to Donald Trump. And once again, we are sitting around fulminating but doing nothing. What was it that the Chinese said about "paper tiger"?

Whatever shred of tiger still resides within us is now expressing itself as moral outrage that Trump's nominee to serve as Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was too cozy with Russia and Putin during his tenure as CEO for Exxon Mobil.

Almost foaming at the mouth, John McCain, undoubtedly itching to get at the hated Donald Trump, has already declared that he will likely vote against Tillerson's nomination because his "friend" Putin is "a thug, a murderer, and a killer."

I wonder what McCain would have said about Stalin during the Second World War? Someone we disliked but depended upon to win against the Nazis. Historians have concluded that if it weren't for the Soviet involvement--defeating Hitler on the Second Front when he invaded Russia--we might very well have lost.

Stalin, this essential ally of ours, was more than a thug, murderer, or killer. He was a mass murderer the likes of which the world has thankfully rarely seen. He is reported to have slaughtered between 34 and 49 million of his own people. And yet, Roosevelt found ways to work with him.

And then later, President Nixon concluded it was expedient to reset relations with another mass murderer--Mao Zedong, who ordered the slaying of at least 45 million. This outreach to China was and is in our self-interest and therefore our leaders somehow found ways to overlook the flood of bloodshed and move on.

And now with Russia again challenging us, McCain and Paul and Rubio and a host of Democrats in the Senate are threatening to block Tillerson's confirmation.

If we could calm down about Tillerson in 2013 receiving the Order of Friendship medal from Putin, wouldn't we see his "friendly" relationship with Putin to be an asset rather than a killer virus to his confirmation? Or do we prefer the prospect of Secretary of State John Bolton? Or, help us, Rudy?

What would McCain and others have us do with regard to Putin and a resurgent Russia--bomb, bomb, bomb . . . bomb Moscow?

I'm just getting over the results of November's election and now I have to worry about World War III?

This is my 3,000th blog posting. The first was way back in August 2005. Thanks for taking the time to look in on these.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

member 14, 2016--Day Off

I will return on Thursday with a few things to say about Russia, Putin, and Trump.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December 13, 2016--Heap of Trouble

There's more than a month to go before Donald Trump assumes the presidency (though he jump-started his reign by sucking up all the oxygen at Saturday's Army-Navy football game) and already the Democratic field for 2020 is getting crowded.

At least in the eyes of people calling in to late-night radio talk shows.

Here's what I've been hearing--

The front runner for the nomination is Elizabeth Warren. Her closest challenger is former Newark mayor and current New Jersey senator Cory Booker. Lurking is New York governor Andrew Cuomo and of course Bernie is running around the country in quasi-campaign mode--again not showing up for his $174,000 per senatorial taxpayer-funded job, which alone puts him in the top 5 percent of earners. And then there's Joe Biden making noises that he is not ruling out yet one more run at the brass ring.

Just what we need to take the White House back from Donald Trump--two white guys who in 2020 will be nearly 80 years old, one a socialist, a Stanford-Yale-educated former mayor who in seven years as mayor accomplished almost nothing, and a Harvard professor who misrepresented herself as partly Native American so she could get a scholarship set aside for actual American Indians. Then there is Cuomo whose closest aides are likely to wind up in jail soon for bribery and bid-rigging and as part of a plea-bargaining deal could bring the governor down in tandem to what is happening just across the Hudson to fellow governor Chris Christie.

Late night-talk show folks refer to Cuomo as "a heap of trouble." And they're being kind.

These aspirants share one thing in common--a disdainful style of the sort that got Hillary Clinton in trouble with working people all across the middle of the country.

The Democratic Party is tearing itself apart after losing the presidency to someone with orange hair who lives in a gold-plated New York City condo triplex surrounded by buildings literally bearing his name.

They seem to think they had the "wrong message," while the real problem is the unspoken contempt they showed for average people. People with less education and inferior genetics. Ironically, while expressing concern about the plight of middle-of-the-country Americans they more fundamentally believe in a form of Social Darwinism (yes they do, as another mark of superiority, believe in Evolution) in which the meritocratically blessed advance while everyone else--the less fortunate--lag behind. Scatter food stamps for them, they say, and that will take care of the inequality problem. Anything other than looking within themselves in search of their own forms of narcissism and how that and the role they have been playing props up and helps rationalize the system.

Heap of trouble, indeed. And I'm not talking just about Andrew Cuomo.

Andrew Cuomo

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Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016--BREAKING (FAKE) NEWS!

Dateline: New York, December 12, 5:24 a.m.

NBC announced late last week that president-elect Donald J. Trump will continue to be the Executive Producer of The Apprentice when it returns to the air on January 2nd. It was not disclosed if Mr. Trump while president will continue to be paid his producer fee or will receive a dollar-a-year. As co-creator he owns a 50 percent share of the program's earnings.

Brian Stelter, host of CNN's Reliable Sources was quoted as saying that no previous president of the United States has had a financial association of any kind with a commercial TV program. When political figures or candidates appear on late-night programs such as the Tonight Show, including sitting presidents, they do not receive the Screen Actors Guild minimum that other guests receive.

Others interviewed who prefer to speak off the record said that this is not only unusual, but that there are other forces as work that explain why Trump is continuing to stay directly involved in the show. All point to the host who replaced Mr. Trump--Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California and the secret previously-unreported relationship between him and the president-elect.

Schwarzenegger was born in Thal, Austria when Austria was still behind the Soviet Iron Curtain and sources point out that the recent presidential election was interfered with by Vladimir Putin's K.G.B. which hacked into the voting machines in key states that were subsequently carried by Mr. Trump and thereby clinched for him the Electoral College victory.

They point out further that Trump, as part of his debt to Putin and Russia, even before Election Day, heaped praise on President Putin which was reciprocated.

The same sources noted the close ties between Putin and some of Trump's key appointees.

For example, Breitbart's Steve Bannon, Trump's behind-the-scenes chief strategist, is a long-time advocate of the U.S. forging strong relations with Vladimir Putin as a way of driving a wedge between the two great communist superpowers--China and Russia. He is responsible for convincing Trump to tip global relations from the Asia focus called for by President Obama to a European focus and thereby, through an improved relationship with Putin, link American interests to the growing pro-Russian nationalist movement sweeping Western Europe.

In addition, retired three-star general Michael Flynn, Trump's National Security Advisor designee, has for many years been one of Putin's favorite U.S. generals. In 2015, for example, he was the paid guest of honor at a gala honoring RT, a government-owned media outlet. It was hosted by President Putin, who sat at Flynn's table during the festivities.

And just the other day it was revealed that Trump will nominate Rex Tillerson, Exxon-Mobil CEO, to be Secretary of State. In his CEO role, he visited Russia numerous times and is currently actively seeking to put the finishing touches on a multi-billion dollar gas and oil deal with Rosneft, a major state-owned petroleum company. The Wall Street Journal reported that "few citizens are closer to Vladimir Putin than Rex Tillerson," indicating he has spent more time with Putin than any American other than Henry Kissinger.

Tillerson and Putin
It is clear that there are deep connections between Donald Trump, his emerging team, and Russia, largely in various connections to Vladimir Putin.

How does Arnold Schwarzenegger fit into this picture?

During his tenure as governor of California, Schwarzenegger initiated legislation that doubled the areas off the coast of California that could be leased for drilling by major oil companies, including Exxon-Mobil.  Through the Exxon connection, the governor was able to meet and make deals with the Russians who then became major importers of California agricultural products.

When Schwarzenegger was term-limited and ineligible to run for a third term, with his private life in tatters, he turned to Donald Trump to help him resurrect his career. Movie roles followed and more recently, when Trump was let go by NBC as host of The Apprentice, behind the scenes as executive producer, Trump influenced the choice of Schwarzenegger as his successor.

Bannon and Flynn, taking note of this, because of their own on-going relationships to Putin and through him to Russia, used their back-channel connections to NBC to influence the hiring of Schwarzenegger.

Further, knowing the details of the former governor's birth and upbringing and his extensive and dependent relationship to Putin and Russia, to maintain these lucrative partnerships, Schwarzenegger's benefactors see him to be a potential presidential candidate in 2020 if Trump decides not to run for a second term, or in 2024 when it is expected that Hillary Clinton will for the fourth time seek the presidency.

Critics note that to make Schwarzenegger eligible for the presidency, since he was not born in the United States, it will be necessary to amend the Constitution. In secret, Trump and his team, led by Steve Bannon and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are already at work on that process, including exploring if Trump can amend the Constitution by executive order, bypassing Congress and the states.

And although Schwarzenegger was married to Maria Shriver, John Kennedy's niece, there is no direct evidence that the former governor was involved in the 35th president's assassination.

A final note--it is reported that when in New York this group of Trump advisors' favorite restaurant, just a few streets from Trump Tower, is the Russian Tea Room; and in Washington, DC, Russian-connection colleagues Flynn, Bannon, Tillerson, and Trump himself are frequently found at Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. Trump is the one eating his slices with a knife and fork.

Putin and Flynn at the RT Banquet

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Friday, December 09, 2016

December 9, 2016--Donad Trump As Lady Gaga

I never reprint entire articles but am making an exception today because Wall Street Journal Wonder Land columnist Dan Henninger wrote something the other day, "Donald Trump as Lady Gaga," that captures an essential part of Donald Trump's appeal--something I have been attempting to write about for more than a year-and-a-half in part to resist that appeal and even to counteract it.

Since Henninger does this so much better than I, I could not resist passing his column along in its entirety  Especially note the sentence I set in italics.

It is 12:13 a.m. and the president-elect of the United States, who has just named retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, is watching “Saturday Night Live.” Alec Baldwin is impersonating him. The president-elect tweets:
“Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable!
Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.”
Twenty minutes later, from the SNL set, Alec Baldwin tweets he’ll stop if the president-elect will release his tax returns.
How is it possible that a man who selects Jim Mattis for Defense on Thursday can be in a tweet smackdown with Alec Baldwin Sunday morning?
The answer is coming into view. Donald Trump is Lady Gaga.
He is a performance artist.
He is challenging what we think is normal—first for a presidential campaign and now for the presidency.
He’s Andy Warhol silk-screening nine Jackie Kennedys. You can’t do that. Oh yes he can. Currently Donald Trump is silk-screening American corporations: Ford, Carrier, Rexnord,
Andy Warhol called his studio The Factory. Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon are now in Donald Trump’s Factory. Like everyone else, they’ve got to figure out what’s coming next.
Lady Gaga once talked about the doubters in an interview: “They would say, ‘This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It’s not marketable.’ And I would say, ‘My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.’ And look . . . I was right.”
Who does that sound like?
In “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump described what he was up to: “I play to people’s fantasies.”
Anti-Trumpers will say: Precisely. We can’t have a performance artist as president of the United States.
That’s irrelevant now.
In four years it may be possible to say that making a performance artist president was a mistake. But that will only be true if he fails. If the Trump method succeeds, even reasonably so, it will be important to understand his art from the start.
So far, the media and the comedians are stuck in pre-Trump consciousness. You’d think the comedians would get it, but getting laughs from left-wing audiences has taken a toll.
Consider two Trump tweet performances:
Jill Stein commences her preposterous recounts and the press analyzes the threat to the Trump electoral-college victory.
Suddenly, the president-elect tweets that “millions” voted illegally for Hillary. The press pivots from Jill Stein to prove, across several days, that the Trump claim is “bogus.”
Like any smart performance artist, he’s made the strait-laced audience part of his act.
One day later, @realDonald Trump tweets: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
Now he’s the Queen of Hearts. Off with their heads! And like terriers chasing another tossed ball, the media ran down every case on the subject to prove, “court rulings forbid it.”
That is true. The courts forbid it. But if it is important to comprehend a president’s mind and intentions, it will be pointless if the media does nothing more the next four years than consider its job done if it microscopically fact-checks and flyspecks everything Donald Trump tweets.
Donald Trump treats the truth as only one of several props he’s willing to use to achieve an effect. Truth sits on his workbench alongside hyperbole, sentimentality, bluster and just kidding. Use as needed.
Another important distinction: Performers merely entertain. Performance artists challenge, subvert and alter. They may be slightly crazy, but they’re crazy serious, though usually a little unclear about where they’re going.
Donald Trump’s voters believed the country was going in the wrong direction—the most powerful metric in the election. They thought he was the one person who shared their sense of wrong direction. These voters wanted to move from point A (Obama) to point B (post-Obama), and they were willing to see the facts bent if indeed they could arrive at point B, such as an improvement in their economic well-being or escape from the politically correct alt-left.
Treating the presidency as political performance art has multiple liabilities. An initially exciting performance can turn tedious. I’ve talked to Trumpians, die-hards from day one, who think the tweets worked in the campaign but not for the Oval Office. An overworked exclamation point loses its meaning!
Will Donald Trump, like Madonna, be driven to ever more outrageous public performances (“Cancel order!”) to keep the world’s attention trained on his persona? From Beijing to Washington, he’s got the world’s attention.

Some of America’s most charismatic presidents were also public performance artists who challenged and overturned status quos: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan. All of them knew that a successful American presidency would be measured by a totality greater than their public performances.

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

December 8, 2016--Voices From Rural America

When looking at the electoral map of the results from the recent election, with Republican counties in red and Democratic ones blue, pretty much all of America looks bloody.

One has to look hard to find what are in effect blue enclaves. Enclaves mainly along both coasts that represent cities such as New York and San Francisco, but in addition places here and there in the middle of the country such as Ann Arbor or Louisville that are also college towns.

This also encourages urban liberals to feel that it's mainly smart, well-educated people who are wisely Democrats. As for the others living in Red-State America, so much the worse for them. What do they know about cappuccinos?

From reporting in yesterday's New York Times, it appears that this rural-urban split is also common in many places in Europe.

From, "Like Trump, Europe's Populists Ride a Wave of Rural Discontent to Victory"--
"The elites in the city are detached from reality," said Joszef Grochowski, a lifelong village resident and mayor [of Kulesze Koscielne, Poland]. "They no longer understand the needs of ordinary people." 
Populist, anti-establishment parties are now on the move in Europe. If they are far from homogeneous, these parties share common ground in their core constituencies--rural voters. Just as Donald J. Trump rolled up a big rural vote in his unexpected presidential victory, Europe's populists are rising by tapping into discontent in the countryside and exploiting rural resentments against urban residents viewed as elites.
This not-understanding-the-needs-of-ordinary-people reminded me of how I was more than prone to that in my early years at the Ford Foundation. And, who knows, perhaps even to toady.

Ford had a program called the Rural Community College Initiative (RCCI) that focused on the educational and community development needs of 24 of America's "most distressed" counties. From some in the Black Belt in Alabama to various counties in Appalachia, to others along the Texas-Mexican border, to schools and colleges on Indian reservations. We made large grants to address these needs and arranged for frequent convenings of college and community leaders so that they could share experiences and learn from each other's efforts.

At one such convening in Uvalde, Texas, about two years into the RCCI, after we all had dinner and more than a few drinks, I made a presentation before the gathered minions about "distressed counties" and how Ford's good efforts were all devoted to helping their communities enhance their assets. Familiar Ford and RCCI stuff.

After about 20 minutes of my rattling on, slouching in the back row was Joe McDonald, founder and president of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana. Joe and I had known each other for years and worked together on this and other initiatives that were devoted to helping the establishment and development of tribally-controlled colleges. And so I recognized that slump and from it knew I was about to get the business. As indeed I did--

"You guys from Ford keep talking about 'distressed' this, 'distressed' that. And how our counties and reservations are 'impoverished.' Some of the fellas and I have been talkin' about that. And to tell you the truth, we don't like it. We're not distressed and not impoverished."

"But," I interjected, "If you look at the Commerce Department's county-by-county map of the country, the 24 of you represented here are from among the most impoverished. I wish it were otherwise, but unfortunately it's the truth."

Those words coming out of my mouth didn't feel all that good.

"We go back a long ways," Joe said, "And we've always been straight with each other." I nodded. "It's true we may be poor by economic measures but we're rich, very rich in other ways."

"I'm listening," I said.

"In some places in natural resources but in all cases in history and culture. My people, for example, have lived and survived in this area for quite a few thousand years. With all due respect many more years than your people. Even more years than your Ford partner there whose family I know came over on the Mayflower." He winked at her.

"It's true, they really did."

"So we like to think of ourselves in ways different than you guys and the Department of Commerce do. It's not that we don't want your help, including your money which we can really use, but to be honest with you both we don't want to hear too much more about being distressed and impoverished. We know about that but we want you to know about the other side of the picture. Our history, culture, traditions, and family and community strengths."

Silence filled the room. My Ford partner and I knew they were right. From our eastern-elite vantage point, we had not shown enough respect for the lives they were living or the things they had achieved. That it's not all about educational attainment and one's financial balance sheet.

"We've got big problems." Joe concluded, "and with your help we want to fix them best we can. But at the end of the day, we feel pretty good about ourselves and what we and our people have achieved against great odds."

That evening changed my life.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

December 7, 2016--Fake News: Pizzaagate

Recently, fake news has been much in the headlines. Fake news being entirely made up stuff masquerading as real news that gets posted and circulated on the Internet either to do harm to someone (like Hillary Clinton) of just as scurrilous or dangerous entertainment. Frequently, all three.

The Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria story is quite a case in point.

Back in October, a month before the election, a few Internet sites, including the Vigilant Citizen, that on the surface look like legitimate news sources, began to "report" that the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria was really a front for child-trafficing activities. In the back room, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, and Hillary herself, led a ring of child-abusers who kidnapped, molested, and then sold children to other child-abusers to serve as sex slaves.

If you haven't been following the story, yes, this is unbelievably true.

These posting went viral, literally globally, and the pizzeria has become the subject of an explosion of social media postings, most of them from conspiracy theorists. And on Sunday, someone showed up to rescue children from the notorious back room. Showed up with a pistol and an AR-15 assault rifle, which he fired just as police were arriving to arrest him.

As shocking and disturbing as this is, versions of fake news are not new.

What is new are the means through which this "news" is propagated. Now we have the Internet, specifically social media, to get the word out and circulated. In the past we had newspapers of different levels of repute that, usually for political purposes, would print the intentionally false news.

All the way back in 1828, during the presidential campaign that pitted Andrew Jackson against incumbent president John Quincy Adams, newspapers under Adams' control circulated stories asserting, via lurid stories, that his wife was a bigamist. In so doing, they pointed out that this would make Jackson an adulterer and Rachel, how to put this, a slut.

Rachel, Jackson's wife, may or may not have fully finalized her divorce from Captain Lewis Robards before marrying Jackson. The Adams people, of course insisted that she hadn't and launched invectives against Old Hickory that rivaled or surpassed the ones Donald Trump leveled against his opponents.

To complicate matters, in the Jackson situation, there is fake news within the fake news--a friend of Captain Robards in his own newspaper, in an attempt to take the heat off Jackson, knowingly published a fake story that the divorce had in fact been completed. It probably hadn't been.

Rachel died in 1828, months before Jackson, who won in a landslide, was inaugurated. It broke his heart.

More recently, well before the emergence of the social media, fake news to hurt political opponents has been commonplace. For example, in 2000, as George W. Bush vied with Joh McCain for the Republican nomination, it was agreed by most that whomever of them won the South Carolina primary would go on to secure the nomination. To defeat his rival--McCain was favored because of his military background--Bush people circulated the fake news that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child.

This doomed his candidacy.

Bush won the SC primary, was nominated, and thanks to the Supreme Court, became our 43rd president.

This history is no comfort to the owner and employees of the pizzeria--it is a place to which the crazies have affixed crosshairs--but when we talk with concern about the proliferation of fake news, it's important to know that we have lived with versions of it for our entire history. And figured out a way to survive.

You don't want me to tell you the made-up stories about George Washington!

Rachel Jackson

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

December 6, 2016--Madman Theory

One of the first things that Donald Trump has actually done is very disturbing--taking what he claims was a call of congratulations from Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan. He has welcomed many such calls, so why is this one disturbing?

Here's the problem--

Who's in charge of Taiwan has been hotly contested since shortly after the end of the Second World War. Formosa, as it was then called, was the island refuge in 1949 for Chiang Kai-shek after his Kuomintang forces were driven there from Mainland China at the end of the Chinese Civil War or Revolution--Mao Zedong gained control of what we used to call Red China and Chiang and his followers, with our direct assistance turned Taiwan into an island fortress, where Chiang nurtured fantasies, again indulged by us, of invading the mainland to retake and unite China.

That of course never happened though through the years there was a lot of saber rattling and occasional threats of a widespread war breaking out in the region. With us right in the middle of it. This became especially dangerous when Mainland China tested and then deployed nuclear weapons. Many of the aimed at Taiwan.

As part of our struggle with communism, with the Soviet Union and China, we steadfastly recognized Taiwan and its leadership as the sole representatives of all of China--it was referred to as the One China policy--and we through the decades refused to extend any form of recognition to Red China, even though the population there was about 1.0 billion while on Taiwan it was a relatively few million.

Then, with Jimmy Carter as president, after Nixon visited Red China in 1972, seven years later, in 1979, the American government recognized Mainland China and severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

China, then, had it's own version of One China during the Mao regime and subsequently. Though China didn't control Taiwan, they considered it, and continue to do so, as China. Just China.

And though we continue to sell at least $2.0 billion a year in weapons to the Taiwanese, we have otherwise kept them at a political distance.  That is, until last week when Trump spoke to Tsai Ing-wen and it, by so doing, hit the diplomatic fan.

On the Sunday talk shows, vice-president-elect Mike Pence tried to downplay the conversation but early Monday morning Trump made matters worse by tweeting--
Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the US doesn't tax them) or build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so.
A couple of things are possible--

In his narcissistic mode, Trump is loving the global attention being lavished upon him. Like an ingenue he is giddy about being courted by world leaders such as Vladimir Putin and China's president, Xi Jinping, among many others. And, so, when President Tai's call arrived he (1) didn't know who she was (2), said what the hell harm can it do to wallow in her congratulations, or (3) saw talking with her an opportunity to poke his finger in China's eye, declaring that when he becomes president in January, unlike his predecessors, he plans to be tough on China.

Well, if the answer is that he didn't know the implications of talking with President Tsai that's one sort of issue--his lack of knowledge about global affairs. And, I'm being kind. Then, if he knew the call was coming from Taiwan and had any sense of the history of China and Taiwan, he might have thought twice. Though thinking twice is something apparently rare for him.

Alternately, I wonder how Trump would feel after being sworn in if Xi Jinping called the governor of Texas and by so doing implied support for the idea of Texas succeeding from the Union.

Then, if Trump is swaggering, maybe there is some lesson from history about what he might be up to--historians call it the Madman Theory.

Get the Chinese thinking he is, well, mad, so they will treat him carefully and perhaps be more prone to make concessions than if he were fully rational and stable.

For antecedents we have to go back to the Richard Nixon presidency who maybe was actually unhinged or perhaps crazy like a fox.

His chief or staff, H.R. Haldeman, in his memoirs, wrote that Nixon had confided in him--
I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry--and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.
The only problem with this is that it didn't work then and it made the world a more dangerous place. The war went on and on and many more thousands were killed.

Let's hope Trump soon names someone other than Rudy to be Secretary of State. Someone who knows something about the world and isn't crazy.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

December 5, 2016--Breakfast With FDR

After a half-hour attempting to talk about the results of the recent election, our friend slammed her fists on the table and, starting to get up, said, "We can't talk about this anymore. Ever."

I said, as calmly as I could, "If it's come to that, for the sake of our friendship, we need to try to keep talking, because, if we don't, it's possible that we'll never again speak with each other."

She had been saying, hotter and hotter, that I was being naive insisting it is too soon to be drawing conclusions about what kind of president Donald Trump will be. "All he's been doing thus far," she quoted me as saying, is appoint people. He hasn't at yet actually done anything."

"But," she had been insisting, "all his appointments are either rightwing racist ideologues like Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, a bunch of hawkish has-been generals or," much worse to her, "Goldman Sachs billionaires with no governmental experience. Talk about draining the swamp. And what about that white-supremacist Bannon?"

"Who do you expect him to appoint? While campaigning he said these are the kind of people he'd select. Successful people and people not tainted by government experience. His criticism included claiming that the messes we find ourselves in are largely because we've been governed by professional politicians and government workers who are incompetent."

"That's quite an overstatement, don't you think?" she pressed, "I know some government officials and they're hardworking and pretty good considering the problems we face."

"So you expected Trump to appoint Bernie Sanders secretary of the treasury? As Obama said, elections have consequences. But, again, I am not drawing any conclusions. Not for a few months after he's inaugurated. To see what he and his people do. Could be a disaster, who knows, but they could shake things up in a few good ways."

She banged the table again but sat back down. So I pushed on, "I know your favorite president is Franklin Roosevelt, FDR." Sullenly, she nodded. "One of mine too, but I found while reading Listen, Liberal, that many of his major appointments were quite unconventional. Not right out of the elite leaders most presidents then and now draw upon."

"There you go again with that book," she muttered.

"It just so happens that I have the book with me. Let me read a bit to you, here on page 39, about some of FDR's appointments--
Look back to the days when government actually worked and you will notice an astonishing thing. Unlike the Obama administration's roster of well-graduated mugwumps, the talented people surrounding Franklin Roosevelt stood very definitely outside the era's main academic currents. Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's closest confident, was a social worker from Iowa. Robert Jackson, the U.S. Attorney General whom Roosevelt appointed to the Supreme Court, was a lawyer who had no law degree. Jessie Jones, who ran Roosevelt's bailout program, was a businessman from Texas with no qualms about putting the nation's most prominent financial institutions into receivership. Marriner Eccles, the visionary whom Roosevelt appointed to run the Federal Reserve, was a small-town banker from Utah with no advanced degree. Henry Wallace, who was probably the nation's greatest agriculture secretary, studied at Iowa State and came to government after running a magazine for farmers. Harry Truman, FDR's last Vice President, had been a successful U.S. senator but had no college degree at all. 
I looked up to see her reaction.

"He also had the famous Brain Trust with plenty of people from Harvard and Columbia."

"Your point?"

"That he also turned to well educated and experienced people to help guide his thinking and legislative agenda."

"True, including appointing the richest man in America, Wall Street insider, Joseph Kennedy, to serve as first head of the SEC, saying he was the best choice because he knew how the system was rigged and where the skeletons were hidden. To drain the swamp you need people who know the swamp. Which brings me to my final point."

"Thankfully," my friend said under her breath.

"Then there was small-town lawyer Cordell Hull, his Secretary of State, who did not always get FDR to do the right thing. For example, he pressed Roosevelt to authorize during the Second World War the internment of Japanese Americans. More than 120,000 of them."

She looked away. "A lot of people, you included, are worried that Trump will do a version of the same thing to Muslims in this country. That banning them selectively from entering this country is not that far a stretch from internment. Whatever Trump might be thinking about that--and I doubt it will come to that--unlike FDR he hasn't made any moves to do so whereas the progressive Democrat Roosevelt did what he did. And further, because of his anti-Semitism, or minimally indifference to the plight of European Jews, with pressure from key members of the State Department, including Hull, how many Jews did he relegate to horrific deaths in Germany's concentration camps? How many could Roosevelt have saved?"

"I have no idea," she said, still not looking at me.

"My point--how presidents act is not always predictable. And before condemning them I continue to contend we have to wait until they act. Becoming president history shows can change candidates and president-elects. Until they get those extra-top-secret briefings and have time to contemplate the world situation and the immensity of their power, all bets are off."

She said nothing and began to slip into her coat.

"My real point is that things are usually more nuanced and complicated than they seem. Thus, the comparison to Franklin Roosevelt. We both think very highly of him, but . . ."

With that, my friend left.

That was two weeks ago. I haven't heard from her since. This is very unusual when we're in town.

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Friday, December 02, 2016

December 2, 2016--Day Off

I will be back at this spot Monday morning.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

December 1, 2016--Pelosi & Warren

Yesterday on display was the current face of the Democratic Party.

Just three weeks after getting trounced at all levels, from state legislatures to governorships to the House of Representatives as well as the Senate and White House, after falling further behind, who was being featured as the leaders around whom progressives are supposed to rally?

Nancy Polosi who at 76 was reelected to yet another term as House Democratic Leader and first-term senator Elizabeth Warren who was widely quoted for slamming Donald Trump's picks to head up his economic team--billionaires Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of Commerce and Steven Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury.

Pelosi one way or the other is on her political last legs--House insurgents managed to muster about one-third of their members to oppose her and this is likely, hopefully, to be her last hurrah.

Warren, on the other hand, is already propelling herself forward as the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2020. Yes, 2020. Thus, it is more important to pay attention to what she does and has to say.

Here is a glimpse--

Yesterday, in a media blitz, during which she railed against Trump's appointments--fair enough as they do not promise to be auspicious leaders, wired as they are into Wall Street--but also issued a number of more generic salvos that are worth noting. Minimally, they expose the full scope of her unbounded ambition and how when the camera is on even Professor Warren can get herself all tangled up in nonsense.

 On CNN, for example, after taking some well-aimed shots at Ross for Commerce and Mnuchin for Treasury (thankfully resisting mispronouncing the latter's name), she went on to rant--

"I mean, Donald Trump is the one who said one thing during the campaign and now has reversed that by180 degrees."

As a patriot, in the spirit of consistency, would she prefer Trump to stick to some of his absurd views about climate change, torture, and the alt-right, views he changed, among others, when he met with executives and reporters for the New York Times? Shouldn't she and we prefer this to Trump's clinging to his previously-declared extreme views? Not, I suppose, if one is already in full flagrant pursuit of the presidency.

It's going to be a long four years.

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