Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Two Faces of Russian Election Interference

Sometimes there is something so obvious staring you in the face and, thus, entering your brain, and yet you just don’t see it. I just had that moment of startled recognition.

I awoke to the realization that, even assuming that Donald Trump did not collude with Russia in influencing the 2016 election (jury is still out), Trump’s sole interest in the subject appears to be establishing his personal innocence. Despite being the President of the United States, sworn to uphold the law, protect the Constitution and so on, Trump has shown no interest in getting to the bottom of what our intelligence apparatus has declared to be conclusive evidence of Russian interference.

Not only has Trump repeatedly denied his own complicity, but he has been a harsh critic of the U.S. intelligence community, about which he knows little or nothing. Trump’s interest in the subject of voter fraud seems entirely limited to proving that there was domestic cheating that resulted in Hillary Clinton receiving more popular votes than he did. We must wonder what he will do now that his “voter fraud commission” is being disbanded for gross failure to accomplish anything.

We can expect at least that he will continue the Trump Deflection Strategy, by continuing to harp on the newest sideshow involving missing text messages at the FBI and the debunked theory that a “secret society” was operating inside the FBI with the mission to destroy Trump and his presidency. You can’t make this stuff up.

Well, actually you can. Some people do. They write fictional mystery/espionage novels some of which are made into movies and make a lot of money on the false but entertaining stories of dark conspiracies, super-human government/anti-government agents running amuck until the “hero” makes a last-minute discovery and saves the country and/or mankind from the evildoers. Trump’s political base appears to live in that same world. They have smoothly transitioned from “Benghazi!” and “what about her emails?” to “what about the texts?” Looking at some of their tweets, they are convinced there is a “secret society” inside the FBI out to get Trump.

They may indeed be half right. Those who believe in the efficacy of prayer likely hope fervently that the FBI/Special Counsel investigation produces enough evidence to support impeachment of the President. Trump’s core base, however, refuses to be concerned in the slightest about the monumental inconsistency between Trump’s repeated declarations of personal innocence and his utter indifference to the possibility that a hostile foreign power, historically the proponent of everything reviled by Trump’s adopted political party, interfered in the election of the most important political person in the country.

For Trump, of course, there is no inconsistency because, if anyone benefited from foreign meddling, it was he and that’s just fine with him.  Trump is the only one that matters to Trump. I would not be surprised if, before his term ends (by whatever means), he does not demand that all written references to his person shall have the initial letter capitalized. You know … as in He, Him …. don’t bet against it. Time will tell.

Cholesterol: Democracy’s Only Hope

The title of this post comes from my favorite sign at this year’s Women’s March in New York City. It is, of course, not true, but I thought it was clever. There are better ways to remove Trump than waiting for him to have a heart attack. I will return to that in a moment.

I had planned to title this piece something more like “And still they came.” Meaning that beginning at 11 am and continuing for more than five hours, the marchers processed in New York. The size of the crowd was overwhelming.

They started somewhere up past West 72nd (we never made it up there for the rally) and came down 8th Avenue (aka Central Park West) passed by Columbus Circle went east on West 58th to 6th Avenue, then down to the mid-40s where the March ended. We had to walk out Broadway and quickly ran into a near standstill crowd at 60th. We crept forward to 63rd, where the police finally allowed our crowd to cross back toward 8th Avenue to merge into the main body of the March. Thus, we processed across town to 6th Avenue and turned toward Downtown. We finally gave out at West 54th Street and headed back toward our apartment. On the way we stopped to get a bite to eat (splitting a corned beef on rye, for which New York is justly famous). Back on the street at about 4 pm, we realized that the people were still marching and chanting; even when we reached Columbus Circle, almost back to our apartment, the street was packed with marchers carrying signs.

So, back to the signs. I can’t say this year’s crop was as creative as those of the first March in Washington last year but some of them were pretty good. I have attached photos of the ones suitable for a “family blog.” If you want to see the others, submit a reply and I will send them privately to you.

The “cholesterol sign” mentioned above is, of course, an allusion to the recent medical report on Donald Trump’s health, a report that, like everything else about Trump, cries out for a redo by people not employed in the White House, Fox News or the Republican Party. My ultimate message, however, is not to quibble about Trump’s health.

Rather, I want to say that the real way to get rid of Trump is to bring about one or more of the following:

(1) Robert Mueller’s investigation acts upon the conclusion that Trump was complicit in the Russian interference in the 2016 election or that Trump has otherwise engaged in obstruction of justice or some other “high crime or misdemeanor,” leading to irresistible pressure for impeachment.

This is, of course, beyond the control or influence of us as individuals. As much as we may prefer a direct take-down of the president, his co-conspirators and enablers, we cannot afford to rely solely on that approach, especially since Republicans control both houses of Congress and are virtually certain to defend Trump to the death.

Thus, we turn to No. 2:

(2) effect a massive Democratic turnout for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms and strip the Republican Party of control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This is the part we can control. The massive turnout for the Women’s March around the country is strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the Democratic Party can experience a massive renaissance and reverse the anti-humanity, anti-environment plague of the Trump-Republican regime. Marching is great, resistance is essential and bringing constant pressure against the regime is important. But, in the end, victory can only be accomplished by one thing:  VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT OF OFFICE.

It is likely that, if you read this blog, you agree with me on this. But it is not enough for each of us individually to follow that prescription and arrange our affairs so we can vote in the 2018 midterms. There are many other potential supporters who, for a variety of “reasons” will not be sufficiently motivated to actually go to the polls or who, for a variety of reasons, will face obstacles to voting, either in their personal circumstances or because they are unaware how to handle the barriers to voting that have been erected in many jurisdictions. If we’re going to win this election going away, we each must reach out to such people and offer to help them by guiding them, driving them, just plain encouraging them, asking them to make the commitment to you personally and then remind them again on Election Day, taking the extra step to assure that every possible vote for Democratic candidates is actually cast on Election Day.

If you run into resistance, with, for example, someone telling you that for reason X or Y, they are going to vote for some third party single-issue candidate, you need to double down with that person and bring pressure on them so that they understand that voting for such candidates is the same as not voting at all or, worse, the same as voting for the Republicans and a continuation of the anti-American agenda they have pursued since Donald Trump was inaugurated. This is a solemn obligation of every right-thinking American. VOTE and make sure that every like-minded person you know also VOTES. This may be awkward in some cases, but if you approach friends on a positive, personal basis, they will generally respect what you are doing.

Understand that the supporters of Donald Trump are not going to just give up if they feel his position is being threatened. No matter what you may have read about the softening of his support, those folks who have found a way to believe in Trump are not going to sit at home whining about how the Democrats are organized and passionate about turning Trump and his cabal out of office. They will vote because they passionately believe Trump is a victim and that they are victims and that sense of victimization and loss is a powerful driving force that largely explains the shock vote in 2016.

That means that every vote is more important than ever. Recall that one legislative seat in Virginia was recently lost by drawing the Republican winner’s name from a bowl because the actual vote of the people was deemed to be a tie! Think about that – an “elected” representative chosen by drawing a name from a bowl.

That doesn’t happen often, but it can happen again. Moreover, the Electoral College vote was determined ultimately by a total of 77,744 votes in three states. Those votes represent .057 percent of the total votes cast for Trump and Clinton combined. Our fate was determined by the slimmest of margins. If this happens again in 2018, resulting in continued Republican control of the House and Senate, who will we blame then? We will just have to look in a mirror to see who is responsible.

Enjoy the photos. Be moved. Act! Join the ACLU. Or Moveon.org. Or Indivisible. Or all of them. Play a part, win the fight, win the war for the soul of the country. Save our republic and its democracy … without cholesterol.

Miss Saigon — All Are Punished

Over the years I have seen most of the major “contemporary” (for their time) plays/musicals/dramas of the live theater. This may be an exaggeration but the current staging of Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theater in New York City is likely the best I have ever seen.

This was my third viewing, the last one being over a decade ago. No matter, it was all like new. In the event, I recalled few details of the story and little of the music. The presentation was, however, almost unbearably extraordinary in every way. A live orchestra added to the drama of the acting. The integration of the music and the play was so perfect that you were not really aware of the role the music was playing until it stopped. Even if you knew the story and what was about to happen next, the presentation was so effective that the suspense, pain, horror and resolution came each time as a surprise and a shock. The suffering of the participants in the inescapable conflicts felt completely genuine.

Jon Jon Briones played the Engineer, a maître d’-like character who brings to mind Joel Grey’s masterwork as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. You love to hate him even as you are forced to admire his handiwork. But most stunning, in my view, was the performance of Eva Noblezada as Kim, the love object of an American soldier about to depart Vietnam as the tragic American intervention came to its horrific close. In addition to completely convincing acting, her voice was transcendent. Her duet with John (Nicholas Christopher) entitled Too Much for One Heart says it all.

Overall, the play evokes Romeo & Juliet in that good people are trapped in a situation not of their making and there is no way out.  For those who lived through the period, and likely more so for those who served there, the complete personal and national tragedy of the American participation in the Vietnam War is fully captured in this emotional juggernaut of a play. Even if you have seen it before, this is a presentation you should see again. If you’ve never seen it, get thee to New York and do yourself a favor by witnessing this compelling spectacle.

And bring tissues.