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D-Day for Trump

D-Day for Trump

Disclaimer: If you are among the 40% of Americans who are enraptured by Donald Trump you will not like what you read here. You should probably turn the page.

I’m not here to debate the issues. I will not argue about Trump’s tax cut, his bluster with our allies, his sycophantic posturing towards our adversaries, his policy towards Israel, his hands-off approach to Syria. You can make a case, if not always a good case, for any of those policies. It’s what Trump is doing to the norms and practices of American democracy that is unforgivable.

The ills of this presidency are more profound than his (admittedly incoherent) policies. The problem is himself; Trump thinks he’s immune to truth and above the constitution. He believes in the rule of one man, Donald Trump, and not the rule of law.

That is a dangerous idea, no matter who the man is. It’s even worse when the man is corrupt, self-absorbed, erratic and vengeful. The rule of law can lead to absurdities; the rule of man will lead to atrocities.

We’re already seeing atrocities on the Mexican border, with children ripped away from parents. Cruelty is in this man’s blood.

I cannot stand having that playground bully representing me, I loathe his being the face America presents to the world.

You may feel differently and that is your right. This is still, technically, a free country. But I will not debate about it. The time for debate is past. I am not here to change minds. I’m here to change a regime.

If the FBI is an out-of-control pack of lying feds, then who will protect us from criminals? If every CIA director is a politically-motivated fool, who will protect us from those, like the Russians, who would do us harm? If “loyalty to the supreme leader” is the ultimate test for government officials, what becomes of the oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States?

Trump said he’d drain the swamp. That’s a promise he kept. He drained the swamp and made a sewer. His closest aides, cabinet appointees and campaign officers are now convicted felons, dismissed, disgraced, under indictment or cloaked by immunity for their crimes.

Bad laws can be changed; a bad man must be defeated. We won’t get there with impeachment, that can’t work with the Senate we have now, or even the best one we can get in November. The best an impeachment strategy can produce is a moral victory. But a moral victory won’t save us.

Maybe you hope that Trump’s next outrage, tweet, lie, fight, firing or failure will be the one. The one that finally makes his supporters turn against him, fleeing his sinking ship. Sadly, that is not going to happen. They’re going right down with him.

We cannot persuade the 40% of Americans who are dazzled by his cult. They are our fellow Americans but they are lost to us for now.

All that matters is that they are only 40%. The rest of America—from the few conservatives trying to save their movement from a demagogue, to the many moderates disgusted by the stench of evil emanating from the White House, to the liberals, progressives, sane and crazy leftists who’ve opposed Trump from the day he ghouled down that escalator—constitutes a solid majority.

Some people are so heartsick with outrage they compare Trump to Hitler. That is an exaggeration. Trump is nowhere near as good at being evil as Hitler.

But let’s accept the point for a moment. Was Hitler stopped by resignations of his Nazi flunkies? Did we get through to the moral consciences of the Good Germans? Did we wait for the Nuremberg trials to topple Hitler, like some are hoping Mueller does Trump?

No, we defeated him. The struggle we’re in now must be fought with ballots, never violence. But Trump must be defeated as comprehensively as that other threat.

D-Day for Trump is coming. There is an election this November, the most consequential in our lifetimes. Together, we can stop this disaster. We can freeze it in its tracks, make Trump a lame duck for two years, and lance the boil in 2020.

But only if we get past our delusions and ready for the political fight for our lives. We have two elections to decide our fate. The first to break his stranglehold on power, the second to send him home to New York and that RICO prosecution he so richly deserves.

Disclaimer: If you are among the 40% of Americans who are enraptured by Donald Trump you will not like what you read here. You should probably turn the page.

I’m not here to debate the issues. I will not argue about Trump’s tax cut, his bluster with our allies, his sycophantic posturing towards our adversaries, his policy towards Israel, his hands-off approach to Syria. You can make a case, if not always a good case, for any of those policies. It’s what Trump is doing to the norms and practices of American democracy that is unforgivable.

The ills of this presidency are more profound than his (admittedly incoherent) policies. The problem is himself; Trump thinks he’s immune to truth and above the constitution. He believes in the rule of one man, Donald Trump, and not the rule of law.

That is a dangerous idea, no matter who the man is. It’s even worse when the man is corrupt, self-absorbed, erratic and vengeful. The rule of law can lead to absurdities; the rule of man will lead to atrocities.

We’re already seeing atrocities on the Mexican border, with children ripped away from parents. Cruelty is in this man’s blood.

I cannot stand having that playground bully representing me, I loathe his being the face America presents to the world.

You may feel differently and that is your right. This is still, technically, a free country. But I will not debate about it. The time for debate is past. I am not here to change minds. I’m here to change a regime.

If the FBI is an out-of-control pack of lying feds, then who will protect us from criminals? If every CIA director is a politically-motivated fool, who will protect us from those, like the Russians, who would do us harm? If “loyalty to the supreme leader” is the ultimate test for government officials, what becomes of the oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States?

Trump said he’d drain the swamp. That’s a promise he kept. He drained the swamp and made a sewer. His closest aides, cabinet appointees and campaign officers are now convicted felons, dismissed, disgraced, under indictment or cloaked by immunity for their crimes.

Bad laws can be changed; a bad man must be defeated. We won’t get there with impeachment, that can’t work with the Senate we have now, or even the best one we can get in November. The best an impeachment strategy can produce is a moral victory. But a moral victory won’t save us.

Maybe you hope that Trump’s next outrage, tweet, lie, fight, firing or failure will be the one. The one that finally makes his supporters turn against him, fleeing his sinking ship. Sadly, that is not going to happen. They’re going right down with him.

We cannot persuade the 40% of Americans who are dazzled by his cult. They are our fellow Americans but they are lost to us for now.

All that matters is that they are only 40%. The rest of America—from the few conservatives trying to save their movement from a demagogue, to the many moderates disgusted by the stench of evil emanating from the White House, to the liberals, progressives, sane and crazy leftists who’ve opposed Trump from the day he ghouled down that escalator—constitutes a solid majority.

Some people are so heartsick with outrage they compare Trump to Hitler. That is an exaggeration. Trump is nowhere near as good at being evil as Hitler.

But let’s accept the point for a moment. Was Hitler stopped by resignations of his Nazi flunkies? Did we get through to the moral consciences of the Good Germans? Did we wait for the Nuremberg trials to topple Hitler, like some are hoping Mueller does Trump?

No, we defeated him. The struggle we’re in now must be fought with ballots, never violence. But Trump must be defeated as comprehensively as that other threat.

D-Day for Trump is coming. There is an election this November, the most consequential in our lifetimes. Together, we can stop this disaster. We can freeze it in its tracks, make Trump a lame duck for two years, and lance the boil in 2020.

But only if we get past our delusions and ready for the political fight for our lives. We have two elections to decide our fate. The first to break his stranglehold on power, the second to send him home to New York and that RICO prosecution he so richly deserves.

Happy Birthday from Uncle and Auntie Sam

Happy Birthday from Uncle and Auntie Sam

Happy 242nd birthday, children. May this July 4th find you full of joy and gratitude, wherever you are in this great land of ours.

Your uncle and I are doing well, all things considered. After all, we’re not as young as we used to be!

But you kids have us worried. Sam and I think you’re being especially bratty and that pains us both.

We know you’re young; your cousins Mr. and Mrs. John Bull keep reminding us their English brood is four times as old and they’ve had no end of problems with them lately, but we expect better of you. That’s why we gave you American Exceptionalism.

Don’t take this wrong, we’re still proud of you, but we think you need to step back and take a good look at yourselves.

So, here goes, and remember, we offer this with love.

First of all, stop bickering so much. Really, children, it’s gotten out of hand! If you keep screaming at one another we’re going to pull the Buckboard over to the curb and nobody goes to DC until you settle down.

I know you think these are hard times, but heavens to Betsy, there have been much worse and you never whined like this!

Really, what more do you imps want? You’ve got the best economy on the planet. People in most of the world would kill for the life you’ve got. Those poor souls to the south of you would die for your privileges, and some of them do, every day.

We’re not saying you have to let anyone in who wants to come here, that’s impossible, but can you at least try to be a little kinder to those folks who try? Nobody likes a bully.

As your Aunt, I especially don’t like the way you’re treating children, and your Uncle says you can’t have it both ways. You can’t moan and groan about your miserable fate while refusing entry to our country because you don’t want to share your good fortune.

Controlling our borders is fine, pretending you live in a swamp at the same time is immature. You’re acting like moody teenagers, nothing satisfies you, everything is bad, boo-hoo-hoo.

Look what you’ve done to the political system we bequeathed you. You’ve soiled it so badly you don’t want to go near it. But whose fault is that?

Now, we don’t want to be too hard on you. You’re still young and young ‘uns make bad choices. But Uncle wants you to “man up” (I don’t like his choice of words, but we’ve been married for centuries so I indulge him. You should follow our example.) He says you made your bed, now sleep in it. If you don’t like it, change the bedding.

But that’s not what worries us most. If you were carrying on, having fun like juvenile delinquents, we’d be upset, but we’d understand. We were young once, you should have seen us cutting up. Oh my goodness, we were bad!

The thing is, we had fun doing it. You kids don’t seem to be having any fun at all. You act like fun and hijinks are beneath you. Maybe you think it makes you look grown up and serious to be so joyless, but it only makes you look spoiled.

We’ve watched your shows, heard your music, read your “posts” or whatever you call them. Goodness gracious, you’d think you were living in the plague years! Anything nice you think is corny, anything hopeful you think is unsophisticated, anything positive is idiotic.

But if it’s gruesome or ugly or cynical, you lap it up like a starving puppy. It seems to us as if you want to feel bad.

Your uncle and I aren’t old sentimental fools; we know that saccharine music and stories are lame.

But we also know that saccharine is not sugar. Life can be sweet, if you let it. Don’t be afraid to be happy and sincere. It will make you happy and sincere.

We don’t want to rain on your parade, children. Especially your July 4th parades. But stop your tears or you’ll snuff out all the pretty fireworks.

And do try to get along. You’ll make more friends, get more done, and be much happier if you do.

But no matter what you do, know that we still love you. You’re the product of our wonderful extended family after all.

Love and happy birthday,

Uncle and Auntie Sam

What is Your Political Orientation?

What is Your Political Orientation?

What is Your Political Orientation?

The fundamental political difference between people is not liberal versus conservative, socialist versus capitalist, or any other worldview you can mention.

The two kinds of political orientation are those who care more about what happened than who did it, and those who care more about who did it than what happened.

We’ve learned to be suspicious of simplistic formulations that place human behaviors on two ends of a pole, like a magnet. People come in infinite shadings on any spectrum, like gay or straight. Most people fall somewhere in between.

But the poles are there, and real, nonetheless. Totally gay or completely straight aren’t absurdities, they define the antipodes of human sexual preference. They are the ends of a spectrum of sexuality.

A similar dialectic defines human political behavior. Let me coin a word here. The political equivalent of sexuality is politicality.

My politicality is more oriented to consequences than personalities, but I understand the other impulse.

Take free-trade Republicans who became Trump protectionists because they care more about Trump than free trade. Or the malleability of conservatives who viciously opposed Trump the candidate, the same super patriots who now are utterly indifferent to Russian meddling in American democracy because it reflects badly on Trump the president. It’s enough to produce tears, or tears of laughter, take your pick.

But there is a rational basis for believing in someone who may disagree with you about one thing, or even many things. The future is unknowable. When you put your faith and trust in an individual, what you’re saying is that you trust that person to hedge the future. You may identify with him or her, you may like their cutting rhetoric or the cut of their jib. Your attraction to them isn’t about position papers, it’s about who you think they are as people.

That politicality isn’t ridiculous. We are human, chemistry matters, and people fall in love, or hate, all the time. And once we do, we’re tenacious. We call that trait loyalty and, for a social species, loyalty is not to be despised.

But there is a price. Too much uncritical loyalty, too much caring about who’s doing it and not what they’re doing can be a dangerous thing. Lemmings come to mind. You never know what’s over that cliff. Lincoln’s promised land or Stalin’s gulag.

The other politicality is not an unalloyed virtue, either. A million people pulling in a million directions get nowhere. And leaderless revolutions always fail. From the whiskey rebellion to Occupy Wall Street, the lessons are clear. Much noise plus much energy plus zero leaders equals zero change. We’re the species that needs to put a face to it.

Seeing politics in this way makes it easier to understand, for instance, how religious conservatives excuse the sinful behavior of our president. For all his marriages and liaisons with porn stars, gutter language and devilish rhetoric, they’re all in with Trump. He tells them how great they are, and he doesn’t talk down to them like some snob on the coast.

And if he’s a sinner, well, so are we all. It doesn’t matter to them that good family man Barack Obama gave them health care and serial philanderer Trump wants to take it away. They don’t care what happens, they only care who did it. If Trump does it, it’s good, if Obama did it, it’s bad.

Democrats are as oblivious in the other direction. Rent by a thousand small issues, talking shop when people want to hear heart, the Democrats fail and fail again because they rarely can put an attractive face on their politics. The party of the people is the party with no personality.

The lesson here isn’t that one type of politicality is better than the other. It’s the recognition that both attitudes exist, and all people fall somewhere on the spectrum of caring more about who did it or caring more about what happened. I don’t think we’ve paid enough attention to that split. And I think politicality, and not liberal versus conservative, is the bleeding heart of our political dysfunction, the ultimate cause of gridlock.

What is your politicality? Do you care more about what happens or more about who did it? Look deep in your soul and figure it out. Then try to move, just a little, to the opposite pole. Somewhere in there are the right policies fronted by the right leaders. Without both, nothing happens. Nothing good, that is.

Ideology has had its day

Ring down the curtains, pack up the props and shutter the theater. Ideology, that grand stage upon which the great and bloody dramas of the last century were played, is played out.

Ideology was just another fad, a mostly 20th century diversion in the flow of history. We still talk about communism, fascism, socialism, capitalism but that’s all it is, talk. Some form of market economics—and those forms are far too diverse to constitute a cohesive ideology—prevails nearly everywhere.

But that doesn’t mean that history is over. What we have now isn’t the end of history, but rather a return of history. The history of the world since Mesopotamia, the endless struggles between and among states and empires, and now global networks and corporations, for conquest, in their neighborhood, their continent, and the world.

We can’t shake the habit of calling states by their putative ideologies, but that’s antiquated thinking. In what sense is Communist China communistic anymore? Newly crowned dictator for life, Xi Jinping, leads a party that has “communist” in its name, but China is state capitalism and personal power personified. China has no more ideology than the Mafia and less socialism than Denmark. If Marx were alive he’d sue them for slander.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, China has never been a wildly expansionist empire. Historically they’ve seen themselves as the center of the world, the so-called “middle kingdom” and they’ve expected tribute from nations in their neighborhood, but they’ve produced no Caesars. When Zheng He’s Grand Fleet raided the South Pacific and Indian oceans eighty years before Columbus floated across the Atlantic in three dinghies, the Ming Emperors took the treasure, burned the fleet and stayed home.

Russia doesn’t even pretend to be communist anymore, but their history is nothing but Caesars, all the way back to Grand Duchy of Moscow. Even their word for leader, Tsar, is nothing but Caesar with a lisp. That tiny Duchy expanded until it covered a continent and a half, from Murmansk to Vladivostok. The communist interlude in Russian history saw the Russian Empire at its greatest extent, but communism didn’t cause it. Russian expansionism did. And now they have a Tsar again.

A couple of decades ago we were supposed to be entering an ideological clash of civilizations, between the Islamic and non-Islamic world. Well, that obsolescent idea is still around, but it’s Muslim bombs pounding Muslims in Syria, Yemen and beyond. It’s about power, not the Prophet.

Between the Kurds and the Turks, the Iranians and the Saudis, the Chinese and the Japanese, there’s not enough ideological conflict to fill a postcard. It’s all about power.

It always has been. We just got distracted with ideology for a while.

Ideologies arose, mostly in the last century, when a dizzying rate of scientific and technological progress made anything seem possible.

Why, we could even remake human nature! We can turn people into socialist heroes! Fascist supermen! Objectivist demi-gods!

A hundred years and a couple hundred million deaths later, we found out what happens when we act on those impulses. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot: Ideology is an express lane to genocide and national self-immolation.

Power is the real game. The struggle of the nation state against the homogenization of globalization, the spheres of interest of the Great Powers, that’s where the action is. That’s where the action always was.

They just slapped some tail fins on it, called it ideology, and got the peons to go to their deaths with a gun in their hands and a slogan on their lips.

In the good old USA we’ve never done ideology very well. Oh, we fight like roosters over minor political differences but that’s more about party branding then any deeply rooted philosophical ideals.

My conservative and liberal friends won’t buy that, but if the poor can switch from the Democrats to the Republicans in a single generation, while, at the same time, the rich and privileged make the exact opposite move, how important is ideology in politics? It’s all about who’s up, who’s down, and who’s out for the count.

The fight of good against evil, and raw power against raw power will never end. I’m not saying there isn’t a wrong side and a right side in some, even most, human conflicts.

I’m just saying ideology isn’t the way to find it. Never was, never will be. Ideology had its day. I think we’re all better off that its day was yesterday.

 

California: The Two-State Solution

California, you have the least equal citizens in America. Each Californian has one-twenty millionth of a vote in the United States Senate.

With 12% of the nation’s population, California has exactly 2% of the votes in the senate. Same as Wyoming, which means that for every vote a California citizen gets in the senate, a Wyomingite gets seventy.

This injustice, embedded in the Constitution, is old news. The framers gave each state two senators, regardless of population. They did this for two reasons: to placate the small states, which seems silly now, and to get the slave states to ratify, which was the mother of all corrupt bargains.

But you don’t have to reach back into ancient history to see the damage to big, underrepresented states like California. That malign two senator policy just cost California a beating in the new tax law, reducing our state and local tax deductions to a ridiculously inadequate $10,000.

In no democratic system imaginable could you pass a law so contrary to the interests of so many people. It couldn’t happen. But it did, because our votes don’t count for much. Our 40 million citizens are horribly underrepresented. The states of Wyoming, Delaware, Alaska, Vermont and both Dakotas, whose combined populations don’t reach 6 million, have six times as many senators than we do, twelve to our two.

The new tax law is a textbook case of taxation without reasonable representation. That’s supposed to be a mortal sin in America. We were founded in violent opposition to taxation without representation. It’s the kind of thing Americans won’t stand for.

Yet we put up with it and more. Stripping tax deductions, undercutting sanctuary city policies, defying marijuana legalization, selling oil leases where no sane Californian would allow drilling, California gets the middle finger from the Federal government because our 40 million are virtually disenfranchised in the senate. They shaft us because they can.

There is no chance in hell that we’ll ever get rid of the two-votes-per-state rule in the senate, though hell is where it belongs. But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless, my fellow Californians.

We can begin to rectify this blatant injustice by recourse to The Two-State Solution. Split our oversized state in two, and just like that, you double our senators.

There has been talk of a breakup lately from a right wing fringe group calling itself New California. They’ve declared independence from us commies on the “coast ” They also claim California is an ungovernable tyranny, which is a spectacularly moronic oxymoron.

But there is far sounder reason for breaking California into two states: Senators.

Cut California in two, north and south. Make the dividing line between North California and South California somewhere near San Louis Obispo. You’d still have two very populous states. Maybe 25 million below the line and 15 million above. But with one big difference. We’d have four senators, not two.

Two Californias, North and South. If it’s good enough for the Dakotas and the secesh Carolinas, it’s good enough for us.

Some could object that I’m only suggesting this drastic change because I’m sure that the two new states will elect four Democratic senators. Guilty as charged, but that’s not the only reason, and electoral politics change. California used to be reliably Republican, it could be so again.

But the moral argument is deeper and incontrovertible; it is profoundly undemocratic for forty million voters to have two lousy senators. Getting four doesn’t rectify that injustice, but it helps.

The Two-State solution will be good for the national economy, too. Think of all the fifty one star flags we’ll have to manufacture. Not to mention maps and fridge magnets, tee shirts and souvenir shot glasses.

Ok, that stuff will be great for China. But it won’t cost Russia a dime, so the current president shouldn’t mind at all.

Everything good will double overnight. Two state birds, two state flags, two state mottoes, (I suggest “Creative Destruction!” and “Lights, Camera, Action!”) and two state capitals. South California will produce the content that entertains the world. North California will create the media to distribute it globally.

The Two State Solution is a win-win for us. It’s a lose-lose for the tiny troglodyte states that harass and oppress us with impunity. But there are far more of us than them. And in a democracy, the majority rules.

Do you want to make America great again? Fifty one is greater than fifty. Enact the Two-State Solution, now.