Category Archives: Politics

We’re Not Better Than This

Rep. Elijah Cummings wrapped up the day-long public hearing today with the repeated statement that “we are better than this.” I understand what he was trying to say but I have to say it is simply not true. Michael Cohen’s riveting and history-making testimony, supported by documents, showed conclusively that the sitting president of the United States engaged in fraudulent and criminal schemes to cover up payments that were directly related to the 2016 election, not to mention other matters related to tax fraud and other actions that were, even after Watergate, unimaginable for the highest officer in the federal government.

I have written elsewhere that I did not believe Cohen would lie in this testimony because he knows that Robert Mueller and the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York were watching. He also has seen what has happened to Paul Manafort whom Mueller has called to task for lying during his promised cooperation with the Special Prosecutor’s office. Cohen would have to be insane to testify falsely at this point. He may be many things, not much to admire, but I doubt he is insane.

For their part, the Republicans on the committee were unanimous in their relentless repetition of one theme: Cohen has lied before and can’t be trusted now. What is most compelling is that no Republican asked any questions about Trump’s conduct. Their entire “defense” was to attack, again and again, Cohen’s credibility while ignoring the documents Cohen produced to support his testimony. The best they could do was to place into the record articles written by various people about, again, Cohen’s credibility. The Republicans have, I suggest, essentially confessed that Cohen spoke the truth today. Their attempts to deflect were, I believe, a complete failure.

That is not to say that Trump’s political base won’t continue to talk the party line in support of Trump. They will likely see the “rat” claim that Trump made as more compelling and important than the president’s underlying criminal behavior. It will be very interesting to see whether any Republican in Congress, in either house, concludes that the president is no longer supportable. I seriously doubt it.

A final observation. I don’t pretend to understand all the political machinations or strategies that underlie the holding of a hearing such as occurred today, but I was extremely concerned at Chairman Cummings’ reluctance to control the hearing. This enabled Republicans to posture, to talk over the witness, to interrupt other committee members and generally to comport themselves as a bunch of hooligans. Cummings allowed the Republicans to make repeated scurrilous comments about his motives and leadership without response. This was very disappointing. He has more patience than I do. In a similar situation, I would have rigorously enforced proper order and the courtesies that the Republicans loudly bemoaned when, for example, Rep. Tlaib objected to the sordid display of Republicans bringing a black woman into the committee area to “bear witness” to Trump’s alleged non-racism. Cummings should have ruled Reps. Meadows and Jordan were out of order.

The Republicans disgraced the Congress and disgraced themselves today. They should be, but aren’t, ashamed.

The good news is that revelations made today will have legs. There will be more and deeper investigations as a result of Cohen’s testimony, including, very importantly, the names of witnesses who know even more about, and have documents that will show, Donald Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors.

Breaking News: Massive Cave-in at White House

Here’s how it went down.

When Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, first learned that Trump was caving on the government shutdown and the fight over “wall funding,” he misunderstood and thought that one of Melania’s escape tunnels had collapsed. He soon learned the truth. Trump was backing down! This was mightily puzzling to McConnell who, despite leading one-half of the co-equal branch of government known as Congress, was in reality a vassal to his liege lord Trump and was being left out in the cold. What could possibly be going on?

McConnell ran to the White House to get instructions from the master negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Trump was, however, confused by his fight with the Democrats over funding for his promised “border wall” (or, as he now says, “whatever you want to call it”). Trump had repeatedly rejected border security funding proposals that did not include the “wall,” preferring to shut down the U.S. government and thereby show how tough a negotiator he is. Trump’s negotiating principle was: “give me what I want or I will hurt you … or someone else you care about.” You know, like a mob boss. Trump apparently believed that it would be effective to simply continue demanding the one thing the Democrats, in solid control of the House of Representatives, weren’t prepared to give, complaining all the while that the Democrats wouldn’t negotiate. McConnell was at a loss how to help his lord and master out of this jam.

Many theories exist about how to negotiate effectively. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books have been devoted to the subject. The one tactic that virtually all negotiation authorities seem to agree on is that taking an extreme position at the outset and refusing to budge in order to get the other side to yield by simply repeating the position is the least effective approach to making a deal. Credible books on the subject devote considerable space to explaining how to deal with the “my way or the highway” negotiators because, despite their dismal record of results, there still are many “negotiators” who try the tactic.

Trump is a great example of this. By dint of his past position atop a real estate empire financed with other people’s money, he is accustomed to demanding and getting others to yield, lest he walk away or file a lawsuit (a favorite tactic). Surrounded by people eager to please, it appears no one told him that trying to negotiate by taking hostages and threatening to hurt them and continue hurting them is unlikely to lead to a favorable outcome. Even if someone told him, it’s unlikely he would have listened. Trump has made it clear many times that he already knows everything he needs to know about everything.

So, Trump shut down the government, loudly proclaiming that the shutdown was “on him” and no one else. Somehow, he thought that forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to either work for no pay (we’ll get back to you sometime later with your money) or stop working altogether without pay was going to force the Democrats led by the newly ensconced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to yield and give him the wall money he wanted. Maybe he thought, “she’s a woman and cares about people, so she’ll crack. I don’t care about anyone but myself so I can outlast her.” Maybe he just thought she was a weak person, since he thinks most people, especially women, are weak compared to him. Maybe he just had too many hamberders and couldn’t think straight. We’ll never really know.

What we do know is that the hostages in Trump’s power play tended to blame him and the Republicans for their inability to do their jobs and pay their bills. Members of Trump’s cabinet, in their usual fashion, tried to prove their loyalty and come to his aid, by pointing out that federal workers without incomes could simply borrow from a bank or credit union. Another characterized the work of federal workers forced to labor without pay until an unknown future time as “volunteering.” The wife of one of Trump’s wealthy sons pointed out that while, yes, there was a “bit of pain” involved in being without an income, it was for a greater cause and thus everyone should be happy to sacrifice. And on and on and on. They gave new meaning to the phrase “tone deaf.” Future historians trying to explain this time will be stymied by the utter absurdity of the theater created by these buffoons, all appointed by or otherwise owned by Trump.

As the casualties piled up, and the airplanes began to stack up as air traffic control faltered due to inadequate staffing, Trump finally caved. He accepted a short term funding and reopening of the government with negotiations then to begin regarding border security. The same deal he would have had back in December and on multiple occasions since then.

In classic Trump fashion, of course, the cave in was accompanied by a meandering blathering incoherent speech about border security and, finally, a repeat of the same old threat: “give me what I demand or I will declare a national emergency, shut down the government again and build the wall with money I will steal from other parts of the federal budget.” Indeed, in a tweet following his Rose Garden speech, Trump flatly denied he had made a concession at all. He reframed his collapse as a decision to help the

“millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The “understanding” Trump refers to is only an illusion within his own mind, not something that involves third parties.

To remove any lingering doubts about that, the putative White House Press Secretary, who now has nothing to do but repeat Trump’s messages, tweeted:

In 21 days President @realDonaldTrump is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats. The only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing. [emphasis added]

That must make sense to Sanders but for the life of me I don’t know what the hell she is saying. Someone I know well replied to her on Twitter with

Really? Trump caved to give Democrats another chance of yield to his demands? That’s your story?

So, apparently, if we’re to believe Trump this time, it’s still “my way or the highway” and this whole three-week suspension of the shutdown is only to help out the Democrats. Or the federal workers. Or somebody.

On that note, the “negotiations” will resume. Now, no one knows whether the courts will sustain a declaration of national emergency in these circumstances. Trump’s record in court is pretty bad, but this is largely uncharted territory. The data on border crossings do not appear to remotely support the idea that there is a national emergency but it remains to be seen whether the courts will simply defer to the “president’s authority” on this.

Of course, one must also wonder why, if Trump has the power to arbitrarily declare a national emergency, he would also have to shut down the government again. One may also wonder why, if he is so determined to build his wall, he doesn’t just use the powers he claims to already have and proceed to steal the money from some other budget item. But logic has never defined this presidency, so maybe that’s just a silly question. Or, just maybe, his legal advisors have warned him that he is on thin ice in claiming absolute power to build the wall on his own order. Again, we’ll likely never know what thought process, if any, actually underlies these twisted mental gymnastics. One thing we can reasonably be sure of – it’s not to help out the Democrats and it’s not about protecting federal workers, about whom Donald Trump gives not one … damn.

The other point to be made here was, I think, very well made in a Facebook post attributed to Dan Rather by the site, Truth Matters. Summarized, the argument is that to bring the issue of border security and the “wall” forward properly, Trump should have arranged for legislation to be introduced, after which hearings would be held, expert testimony collected and, ultimately, votes taken on the elements of a proper modern border security regime. In legislative terms, this would be called “regular order.” But, no, Trump thinks he is a dictator who can simply demand what he wants and everyone will yield as they did when he was in private life running his real estate companies.

The resistance led by Pelosi shows that at least one half of the Congress, under Democratic leadership, understands its proper constitutional role as balance against the executive. Trump thinks he’s going to win because he needs to satisfy his political base and he is blind to the reality that even some of that group of slavishly devoted followers were hurt by and disapprove of the government shutdown Trump directed and that he continues to threaten.

So, the negotiations will resume with Trump’s threat on the table: “do it my way or I will simply go around you.” This is not a formula for success and there is no reason for Democrats in the House to yield to this type of threat from the president. It is not in fact the Democrats who don’t want to negotiate – it is Trump who still insists “you will do it may way or else.”

I am not prescient and will not try to predict how this is going to come out, but it’s hard to be optimistic when one party takes the position of a 5-year old who won’t eat dinner unless he’s guaranteed two desserts.

When last seen, Mitch McConnell was seen standing in the cold in front of the White House holding a note addressed to the president. It read “My liege, what, oh what, do you want me to do now?”

Note: some of the above is satire but it’s impossible to know which part. It could all be true.

 

 

Experimental Blog Post re The Sound of Apple Carts Being Knocked Over

WARNING: Before getting into the substance, and because I am so ____ bewildered and more than a little ____ off, I have written this post with blanks so you, in the privacy of wherever you read these things, can fill in the blanks with whatever words you’re comfortable with. Such words may be namby pamby or they may be harshly vulgar. That’s up to you. No one will know but you. If so inclined, let me know what you think of this form of blog post as a way of communally but also privately sharing your feelings, at least with yourself. If that makes sense. I’m not sure it does. But whatever you do, when you come to one of the blanks do not think of vulgar words; think instead of something else that’s just as good. Really. Try.

Did you ever wonder what an apple cart sounds like when it’s knocked over? No? I thought not. Most people in the modern world never come in contact with an apple cart, let alone one that has been knocked over within earshot. But apple carts are being knocked over left and right (well, mostly left) in Washington with the arrival of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated a popular Democratic incumbent (actually the voters did it, but that’s a detail), and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez is also known as AOC. How cool is that? One week on the job in Washington and she’s her own acronym.  Donald Trumpski thinks she’s a new govt agency and can’t understand why he didn’t get to appoint her and can’t fire her.

Rep. Tlaib shocked the formerly Free World by using a profanity in a statement to a group of supporters, a profanity that, in the world of profanities, seems entirely suited to its target, the traitor-in-chief, Donald Trumpski. But you would have thought Tlaib had actually assaulted someone on the floor of Congress. The _____ Republicans were apoplectic. It’s one thing for Trumpski to say he could shoot someone and not lose votes, but for a woman, a freshman, a Muslim for _____ sake, to call Trumpski a “bad word, why this could be the end of civilization itself.  A “sad” day for the Republic, they said. Their delicate sensibilities couldn’t stand such coarseness. Oh my, I think I have the vapors, I may pass out.

The _____ Democrats too were quick to pounce on the use of profanity in politics. What have things come to? Not constructive, they said. Not moving in the right direction. ____ it. More on this in a moment.

So, what was the first reaction from the “establishment” on the left? Here are some examples:

  • Shut up!
  • Toe the party line
  • Mind your manners
  • Submit to the “rules” of decorum that we wrote in anticipation that one day someone like you might be elected
  • Stop calling attention to yourself, _____
  • Wait your turn – we’ll let you know, ______
  • Stay in your lane
  • Speak only when spoken to
  • Ask permission before proposing a policy your elders might not like
  • Above all – shut up: Congress is where good ideas go to die

And, on the right? Well, I’ll be ______, you’d have thought Mitch McConnell had voted for national health insurance. The right was both mightily offended and simultaneously gleeful that new targets for their misogyny and racism had arrived. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, unhappy with his new role of powerlessness, was quick to demand that Speaker Pelosi “reprimand” Tlaib. Pelosi rightly responded that she was not in the censorship business. _________. If hypocrite McCarthy wants to reprimand someone, he should start with the leader of his own party. When he brings Trumpski to heel, he can think about imposing his personal standards of propriety on others. What a _____ moron.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Republicans are having hysterical hypocritical meltdowns over a freshman Congressperson using a vulgarity in relation to the supposed President who has built his entire persona around “telling it like it is,” including the use of a multitude of vulgarities, all available on video even as he, with his usual practice of lying about almost everything, denies that he said what he said. Instead of ganging up on the Democratic newcomers, the _______ Democrats should be making videos of all of the lying and hypocrisy on the right, including their claims that they want to protect health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, then post the videos on every right-wing social media site every day until the next election.

AOC blew Republican minds when a video was released of her dancing in college. Imagine that! Dancing in college. _______! She responded … with more dancing. There was a profound lesson in that move that the Republicans, as usual, failed to grasp. Later, she spelled it out more clearly on Twitter:

“None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with YOU. You’re locked up in here with ME.”

BOOM!! EMT squads were dispatched to Capitol Hill to resuscitate Republicans who suddenly found themselves unable to breathe. There were no reported fatalities but ashen-faced Republicans retreated to a secret meeting to discuss their next attacks on the freshmen Democrats who threaten the entire world order of old white men by having ideas and the willingness to express them.

It’s doubly interesting and profoundly disturbing, I think, that the media have played a facilitating role in the shock and dismay at Tlaib’s alleged darkening of political discourse in the Nation’s capitol. A front-page article in the New York Times on January 5, entitled “Cry to Impeach Upsets Agenda for Democrats,” described Tlaib’s remarks as an “expletive-laden impeachment promise” that was going to “upend the bonhomie of a new Congress.”

Bonhomie? Really? In _____ Congress? Give me a ____ break. One remark by a freshman congressperson upsets the entire Democratic agenda? That must have been some ___ agenda. Where does the MSM get this tripe?

The Washington Post joined the chorus with a front-page article the same day, entitled “House freshman’s cursing revives impeachment talk.” CBS News referred to the statement as “harsh.” https://cbsn.ws/2D374GL

There is so much here, I almost don’t know where to begin, but I will plunge ahead. I understand that media writers have little time to produce their stories against deadlines and the ever-present concept of “breaking news” that they employ to get our attention. But I still expect some respect for the English language by them and/or their editors. I was particularly struck by the use of “expletive-laden” in the Times piece. The click-bait title of a Jan. 4 piece by the Washington Post refers to the speech as “profanity-laced.” https://wapo.st/2M4nwtq

Google reports that “laden” means “heavily loaded or weighed down.”  Tlaib used the “bad word” once at the end of her remarks. I suppose one can argue that the word is so powerful in some way that even a single use infects everything adjacent that then becomes “laden,” but frankly, I think the Times andd the Post simply chose to make more of the statement than it could carry by itself. The so-called mainstream media had best be careful lest their already tenuous hold on the popular mind is completely severed. If they want to criticize, do some homework and use English. Leave the click-bait _____ to Twitter and Facebook.

The other thought is this: does anyone really believe that words like that used by Tlaib are not thrown about by politicians in the Capitol all the time when they don’t think anyone’s listening but their fellow inmates? Really? ____ that ____. And can it possibly be true that the Democratic establishment is not aware that many many many people have been openly talking about impeaching Trumpski for two years??? The talk started the minute he was elected.

The final thought about this particular dustup is that the Democrats who are running around giving quotes to the press critical of Tlaib are feeding the beast that threatens to defeat them and our democracy. The CBS News article cited above reports that a huge majority of Americans support impeaching Trumpski. If Democrats from the Old Guard think impeachment right now is a bad idea, fine, say so, but why join the ______ Republican feeding frenzy in attacking Tlaib for using a “nasty” about Trumpski. Why is it that the Old Guard doesn’t understand by now that things have changed?

The reality of national politics is that people like AOC and Tlaib are not intimidated by the mere presence of the Old Guard. They, and the Americans who elected them, are fed up with the Old Guard that opened the door to the election of a traitor and incompetent like Donald Trump and they are fed up with the _____ Republicans who are failing to do their job to rein in a president who is out of control and blatantly unqualified for his job. Democrats had best take heed or more apple carts will be knocked over and they won’t know what the ___ hit them.

Republican House Members Baying at the Moon

I have just finished reading the entire 235-page transcript of the Executive Session Committee on the Judiciary, Joint with the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, U.S. House of Representatives, December 7, 2018 in which the Republican majority questioned James Comey, former Director of the FBI about the same set of issues related to his public statements during the runup to the 2016 election and to his explanation of why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not charged with criminal conduct related to her misuse of emails.

Suffice to say, the Republicans failed yet again to lay a glove on Comey, and I say that recognizing that many people, myself included, disagree strongly with his decision to tell the world, on the eve of the election, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton because of the discovery of a trove of her emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton aide, Huma Abedin

After all the questioning and posturing, only two things emerged that are even interesting at this point in time.

One was the effort by Rep. Trey Gowdy, to compare unfavorably the treatment of Clinton regarding whether she had simply “made a mistake” and the treatment of President Trump and General Michael Flynn on the question whether on the question of his potential attempt at obstruction of justice by asking Comey to drop the Flynn matter. Recall that Comey immediately prepared a memo about Trump’s demand and shared it with senior people at the FBI.

In classic fashion for the Republicans, Gowdy suggested that a statement by former President Obama had stated, while in office, that “the target of an investigation that was ongoing simply made a mistake and lacked the requisite criminal intent.” Gowdy demanded to know whether Comey didn’t think that Obama’s statement was “potentially obstruction of justice.”

“Mr. Comey. I didn’t see it as — through the lens of obstruction of justice. I saw it as threatening our ability to credibly complete the investigation.

Mr. Gowdy. In what way?

Mr. Comey. The President of the United States offering a view on a matter or a case that’s under investigation, when that President is of the same party as the subject of the investigation and working for her election, would tend to cast doubt in reasonable people’s minds about whether the investigation had been conducted and completed fairly, competently, and independently…. It concerns me whenever the Chief Executive comments on pending criminal investigations, something we see a lot today, which is why it concerned me when President Obama did it.

Mr. Gowdy. Well, it concerns me too, Director Comey. I’m also concerned that people treat similarly situated people the same. And did you make a memo after President Obama said she made a mistake and lacked the requisite criminal intent?

Mr. Comey. He said that on FOX News.

Mr. Gowdy. Right.

Mr. Comey. I did not make a memo about the FOX News broadcast.

BOOM!

The second instance occurred when Jim Jordan made much about the fact that James Baker, then General Counsel of the FBI, had testified earlier that it was a unique circumstance that anyone would approach him directly with evidence of someone’s wrongdoing that the discloser claimed would warrant an FBI investigation. What Jordan did not do was acknowledge that Baker had in fact returned alter to clarify that he did remember another case, a completely different matter, in which precisely that had occurred. It was left to the Democrats (Ms.  Sachsman Grooms in this case, she being Deputy Staff Director for Rep. Elijah Cummings of MD) to ask what amounted to redirect questions to fully develop the record that the Republicans were trying to create with partial information from a prior hearing.

Overall, despite all the sturm und drang from the Republicans, it was the same old same old. This is not part of an investigation designed to get at the truth about some threat to the country. It is an entirely partisan attempt to buttress the President against the ugly truth that he tried to obstruct justice by directly asking the Director of the FBI to drop a criminal investigation involving the National Security Advisor that Trump had appointed. The hearing will resume on December 17.

Trey Gowdy, soon to retire from the House, has little time left to restore himself to the good graces of the President who tolerance for independent thought is below zero. Read the history of Trump-Gowdy here: “Trump allies gang up on Gowdy,” https://politi.co/2Lgl1SZ  It’s pretty amusing. We can expect more “fireworks” from the Republicans in the next round with Comey who must be getting pretty tired of answering the same stupid questions over and over. But that’s what the President’s sycophants do. They have nothing else.

Racism at Ground Level

My wife and I emerged from a Broadway show into a cold downpour. The weather folks had predicted it and this time they were right. We had coats and umbrellas, of course, but the wind was strong and puddles were everywhere among the thousands of people on the street in Times Square, many of them without any apparent protection against either the cold or the rain. Tourists? New Yorkers who simply won’t yield to reality? No way to know and we really didn’t care.

Our first plan was to go to the closest subway station and take the train to Columbus Circle, from which it is just over a long block walk to our apartment. As fate would have it, both of the nearby stations were locked shut, due, we later learned, to “track improvements.”

Nothing for it but to walk the 10 or so blocks to our building and we set out. But just two blocks later, a taxi with top light on pulled up to the stoplight right in front of us. The diminutive driver signaled us into the cab and away we went. Sort of. Traffic was, of course, in total gridlock with a lot of angry horn honking and jockeying for position among the yellow cabs and the other cars that, for whatever unimaginable reason, had chosen to drive into the Times Square area that evening. This is to be expected. In every rainstorm since the automobile arrived in New York, there has been gridlock, horn honking and jockeying for position. Everyone knows it’s going to happen.

We slowly made our way across town toward 8th Avenue which would take us directly to Columbus Circle. Then, while still on West 51st Street our driver and the driver of a larger van-style car came side by side of each other. Looks were exchanged and then our driver lowered his window and began shouting at the other driver who returned the favor with his middle finger. Our driver said something about how the other guy should learn to drive “like a gentleman, you Pakistani m*****f***r!” Fortunately, that was the end of the exchange. I suspect that if it had not been raining so hard, these two men might have faced off in the street, while their passengers were ignored in favor of settling the racial score that had erupted between them. I don’t know if the other driver was working a ride-hailing service like Uber or was just out in the evening for other reasons. I have seen serious words exchanged by NY cabbies with Uber drivers before, but never in these circumstances. In this case it was hard to understand how our driver could tell anything about the other one through the downpour but he was clear enough about what he thought.

Had it not been raining, we would have left the cab with the fare unpaid. But it was and we didn’t. The drive, however, got only a nominal tip, for picking us up in the first place. This is not the experience anyone should have in a public conveyance. I well understand some of the bad blood between the taxis and the ride-hailing services, but even today many of the New York cabs are neither clean nor comfortable and the cabbies often seem to pride themselves on being surly. This episode was a sad reminder of the hostilities and tensions that stain our world.

Occam’s Razor – Trump Explained

The thinking segment of the American population, myself included, continues to wonder, often involuntarily, what forces could produce a person as unworthy as Donald Trump and then elect him to the most powerful political leadership position on earth. With each passing day, the conundrum grows as his conduct becomes even more horrific and dishonest than the day before than the day before ….

The principle of Occam’s Razor says, in its simplest form, that of two alternative explanations for something, it is usually the simpler one that is correct. More accurately, it is Ockham’s razor, named after a philosopher whose adulthood was spent in the 14th Century. The concept has other names, such as the law of economy.

In any case, if you apply that principle, Donald Trump is easy to understand.

Trump is a rich, over-privileged man who has always had his way by bullying, threatening and lying, using his wealth (handed to him by Daddy & later ill-gotten) to file lawsuits, abuse the bankruptcy laws to thwart paying off creditors and generally demanding and getting whatever he wanted. He is accustomed to being catered to by employees desperate to keep their jobs even at the expense of their dignity and by women seeking the “benefits” of being around a rich guy who lavished them with gifts in return from whatever they were willing to provide, including, most recently, their silence so that his campaign to be president would not face the inconvenience of revealed extramarital affairs.

Now, most people in Trump’s shoes conduct their perfidy in private, because obscurity serves to protect them from exposure for the type of people they really are. The recent spate of disclosures in the #metoo movement show how that has worked in the past. Hopefully, no more. But Trump has never shied away from public display of his crassness, witness his gold apartment in New York, or making excuses for his numerous business failures. He simply lies about them, denies everything and moves on to the next misadventure funded by his money and other people’s money who were foolish enough to ignore the evidence of his incompetence.

Trump is the perfect example, I suggest, of the Occam’s razor principle, which is exemplified perfectly in a quotation attributed to Coco Chanel: “There are people who have money and people who are rich.” Trump is the former.

In the normal course of human events, it is rare to come across someone who is openly a serial liar, racist, homophobe, nativist and the more we see of Trump, the more people wonder: how can this be true, that one person could so publicly display his duplicity, lack of morality, aversion to kindness hostility toward people less fortunate than himself and on and on. People seem to believe there is more to the man; there simply must be. No one can be this shallow and empty a soul and still have friends and still be respected by people who, superficially at least, are themselves respectable.

I suggest again that the search for a complex solution to these questions is hopeless and pointless. Trump is exactly what he appears to be and there is zero chance that he will change. The life forces that produced this person are not likely to suddenly produce a revelation in which Trump will come to understand how horrible a person he is. He will simply deny everything and carry on as before. If imprisoned ultimately for his crimes against the country and against humanity, he will be led away in chains proclaiming that the American system of justice was rigged against him, that he is in fact the greatest victim of all time. Look at me! Look at me!

Much has been made of Trump’s appetite for cheap hamburgers and of his apparent inability to spell or use complete English sentences in his speech. Again, this is finding complexity when a simpler and more obvious explanation exists. Trump’s malapropisms and misspelled/misused words in his tweet tantrums are, I suggest, deliberate acts to draw attention to him and away from both his “policies” and his treasonous guilt. The more Trump gets people guffawing over his style mistakes, the less they will focus on his misconduct and incompetence.

Granted, this strategy is only partially successful. Trump’s substantive failings get plenty of attention in the Twitterverse and in the political media, but that attention is a fraction of what it might be if he were not, metaphorically, dressed in a clown suit, squeezing his nose while making honking sounds and all the other distractions on which he trades.

In the end, it’s not going to work. Robert Mueller’s investigation seems itself to be an example of Occam’s razor at work. Mueller’s team is sifting through mountains of evidence to get at simple truths that state, yes, he is guilty. Stated metaphorically, when there is this much smoke, one of two explanations is true: there is fire or there is not. Bet on “not” at your peril and keep your day job.

Real News Roundup of Important Stories – No.1

The volume of astonishing stories coming out of, mainly, Washington DC is so large that it is impossible to keep up with thoughtful posts about each of them. This is frustrating because, of course, I have a lot of opinions to share, which is a main reason I write this blog at all.

I have therefore decided to publish periodic roundups of the most compelling stories in summary form. I have a large file of old stories and will just go through them in reverse order, newest first and so on. Of course, that symmetry will shortly and repeatedly be broken by the avalanche of new extraordinary tales. The items to be covered in this series are usually ones that don’t require a lot of comment or analysis.

First up, the incumbent Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Mississippi has just “joked” that it would be a good idea to make it harder for liberal college students in Mississippi to vote. https://wapo.st/2BaULYa This har-har knee-slapper follows on the heels of her remark a few days ago that if the host of her political event invited her to a public hanging, she’d be in the front row. Lady just doesn’t know when to keep her racist mouth shut. Har-har.

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos, the know-nothing Secretary of Education has nothing better to do regarding the national education system than worry about the rights of young college men accused of sexual assault. According to reports, her new plan would narrow the definition of sexual harassment and mandate investigations of sexual assault only if the conduct happened on campus or other institutional sites and was reported to campus officials. The accused’s representative would be allowed to cross-examine the accuser. According to USAToday https://bit.ly/2OMsXwX , the new rules would create three categories of potentially actionable harassment. The new one is:

Unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.

In addition, quid pro quo harassment, such as a school employee conditioning an educational benefit on a person’s sexual conduct and outright sexual assault. I am waiting for someone to define “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.” Maybe it’s in the proposed rule somewhere. Among the “supportive measures” available are “academic course adjustments, counseling, no-contact orders, dorm room reassignment … and class schedule changes for either the accused or the accuser.” If so, this means that the victim of sexual harassment could be forced to take those steps to avoid further contact with the, in this case presumed guilty, harasser. Curious way to treat a victim of sexual harassment. Maybe more about this another day.

About a week ago, white nationalists held a “rally” outside Ward, Arkansas. Photographs of the handiwork of these upstanding “Americans” may be seen here if you have the stomach for it – you could easily confuse these with photos from Nazi Germany but these are homegrown boys: https://reut.rs/2K1KGzG Nothing to add here. The photos say it all. Except that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are fairly chargeable with inviting these things to publicly assert themselves.

In other developments stemming from the Republican Party’s devotion to the United States, our country joined with Russia, China and North Korea in refusing to sign on to a cybersecurity agreement created at the Paris Peace Forum last week. https://bit.ly/2qPfIC3 The pact was signed by more than 50 countries, 150 technology companies (including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and HP) and 90 charitable and university parties.

According to Shareblue Media [https://bit.ly/2qPfIC3],

The cybersecurity pact — which calls for countries to work together to promote human rights on the internet, thwart malicious activities such as theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, and develop better methods to prevent foreign election interference — was supported by most modern democratic nations including Japan, Canada, and the countries of the European Union. [emphasis added]

According to the original source, The American Independent,

With the Trump administration continuing to make inexplicable decisions that benefit Russia with no apparent gains for the U.S., it’s not hard to see why so many people believe that Putin has a hold on Trump.

Unfortunately for the American people, that also means Putin has a hold on Trump’s decision-making — and despite what Trump may claim, there’s nothing “America First” about America retreating.

Last, for today, is this beauty, too good to pass up. As reported by Newsweek [https://bit.ly/2TgPOUP], Leavenworth County (Kansas) commissioner Louis Klemp “is facing calls to apologize after telling a black woman that he is part of the “master race” during a routine public planning meeting.” This is not made up. The cited report had the video that includes this statement:

“I don’t want you to feel like I’m picking on you. Because we are part of the master race,” he said in the meeting. “You know you have a gap in your teeth we’re the master race, don’t ever forget that.”

The video has been replaced but you can see it at https://bit.ly/2K8SmQA Putting aside that someone would actually say this, the amazing thing to me is that there are merely calls for him to apologize. Nothing in the article indicates that a demand has been made for his resignation. He, of course, now claims he was just joking. Har-har.