Republicans Berserk Over Anonymous NYT Op-Ed

This morning I awoke to find that Scott Jennings, “a CNN contributor, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell and currently a partner in a PR firm he co-founded in Kentucky, had published through CNN an attack on the decision of an anonymous Trump administration official to publish through the New York Times a statement about the chaos and malfunction in the Office of the President of the United States.

First, I want to acknowledge that Mr. Jennings is a very smart and accomplished person. His brief bio on CNN.com does not reveal that he is a Resident Fellow to the Harvard Institute of Politics. He had roles in both of President Bush’s campaigns in 2000 and 2004, before becoming Special Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Political Director in 2005. Among other things, his office advised the president on many issues. Jennings has helped elect U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (’02, ’08, ’14), among others.

He also knows how to spend money in politics. In 2014, Jennings served as senior advisor to a Super PAC that spent millions supporting the re-election of McConnell. He also served in a similar role for the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c)4 non-profit that has spent millions of dollars on “issue advertising” in Kentucky since 2013. This biography makes clear that Jennings is a hard-core Republican operative with a likely interest in backing an imperial view of the president’s position.

The anonymous New York Times op-ed is by turns shocking/disturbing/terrifying (take your pick or all of them) in its acknowledgement of the disfunction in the White House led by an erratic and untrustworthy person but also reassuring to a limited degree in its contention that there are “adults in the room” taking care of the nation’s business when the president goes off the rails.

Note also a point largely overlooked in the breathless analysis of the event: “many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” If true, the op-ed author is not alone in resisting the president. Also note that the author says the root of the problem is the “the president’s amorality,” and that he is “not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.” These comments support the view, often stated in press interviews, that Trump makes up everything as he goes along, based on some internal belief that he is a “stable genius” and knows more than all the experts that surround him in Washington.

The Republican establishment is going berserk over the idea that a high administration official would speak anonymously about the situation in the White House. Remarkably, many Republican voices are a chorus on the point that “we all knew Trump was bonkers” so there’s no news here. Their big objection is that someone close to the president has anonymously admitted to actively resisting Trump to prevent him from damaging the national security of the United States. Their view is that this person should instead resign his/her position and then shut up so the president can go about his business in any way he likes.

That appears to be the core of Jennings’ objections to the op-ed: “These statements are alarming, of course, because of the “senior” level status of the government official purported to have written them.” In other words, if the op-ed had been produced by a low level employee, who cares?

“But they are also alarming.” Jennings continued,

“because an anonymous, unelected government appointee is substituting his or her judgment for that of the duly elected leader of a constitutional republic. Nowhere in the op-ed does the appointee allege criminal or treasonous behavior on the part of the President. Rather, this person says the President is not faithful to “ideals long espoused by conservatives,” and conducts meetings that “veer off topic and off the rails. While I agree that unfaithfulness to conservative principles and bad meeting habits are annoying, are they grounds for the unelected to put themselves above the will of the people?”

Really? Just “annoying?” “Will of the people?” Jennings assumes away one of the most critical questions implicated by the op-ed, namely, that the Trump administration, having received massive support from a foreign power (Russia), is therefore illegitimate and that Trump is an unhinged person incapable of exercising the vast responsibilities of the office he holds. One must be careful about “will of the people” arguments in the context of the Trump administration where there is an outstanding investigation of possible collusion, with the president’s knowledge and approval, with a foreign power to steal the election.

When Jennings states “Voters knew exactly what they were getting with Trump,” he is implicitly admitting that the claims about the unhinged and dangerous behavior of the president are legitimate and certainly not surprising. Yet he, and the other Republicans howling about the op-ed, continue to argue that the use of anonymity and the acts of resisting the president are more important than assuring that the president does not undertake dangerous actions harmful to the country. I can’t say this is surprising when the record of the Republican-controlled Congress is considered. Those politicians clearly care more about retaining their party in power than they do about the risks to the country and the world from having a leader who resembles Kim Jong-Un in more ways than one.

Jennings also argues that the op-ed author has a “duty to resign” and then should reportwhatever egregious behavior he or she has personally seen to Congress and the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.” There are two problems with that position.

One, if all the insiders resisting the president’s unhinged behavior were to resign, there would remain no internal resistance to his “egregious,” or much worse, behavior. The sudden interest of Republicans in “honor” is a pathetic joke in like of the failure of Congress to exercise its checks-and-balances responsibilities.

Second, Mueller’s investigation is not about “egregious behavior” and Mueller’s taking such information would just lead to more Republican screeching about Mueller illegally expanding his investigation beyond its proper boundaries. It is beyond cynical to now suggest that Mueller look into the president’s “amorality.”

It should also be noted that if the op-ed author were to reveal his/her identity, he/she would immediately be fired, perhaps even arrested. That’s asking a lot of someone who was apparently trying to mitigate the worst aspects of a dangerous autocrat’s tenure in the nation’s highest office.

It’s also more than a little hypocritical to be arguing that there are superior “remedies created for us by the founding fathers.” Technically, that is true, but since the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have shown only blind obeisance to Trump regardless of his outrageous behavior bordering on if not actually treason, it is clear that the regular constitutional mechanisms for controlling an out-of-control president are not effective.

Jennings has a somewhat fair point in saying, “Is it right for unelected people to make decisions for him? Is this a signal we want to send the rest of the world, that constitutional order has fallen apart in the world’s most durable democracy? Because that’s precisely the destabilizing effect this op-ed will have on America’s standing in the eyes of our friends … and our enemies.”

Maybe, but if one was awake during the period since Trump’s inauguration, it should be clear that the constitutional order has already fallen apart and that our relations with friends around the world have been undermined and destabilized by the conduct of the president. It’s a bit late and completely cynical for anyone on the Republican side to be citing the “constitutional order” as a basis for objecting to the op-ed.

Jennings also argues “Those who stole papers from the Oval Office must be subpoenaed by Congress to explain themselves, because we deserve to know whether they have a good reason beyond just policy differences with their boss.” The basis for the Congress to investigate the conduct of Executive Branch appointees is not apparent to me. Think about what that process would look like. Such “investigations” could not be held in public so we would have members of the White House senior staff and possibly Cabinet officers testifying in secret Star Chamber-like proceedings that would inevitably resemble the days of Joe McCarthy. The fruits of the Trump presidency.

Jennings goes on to address the formal ways the Constitution provides for addressing problems with the president:

The founding fathers provided three tools to stop a runaway presidency — elections, impeachment, and invoking the 25th amendment. The Times op-ed writer admits that no one in the Trump administration “wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis” by invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president. This tells me that the writer’s concerns aren’t widely held enough to actually rally a constitutionally allowable coup against the President.

That leaves impeachment, which I suspect House Democrats will pursue come January if they take over the House of Representatives via elections in November. Strangely, Democratic leaders must not believe impeachment to be a winning message, as they continuously try to tamp down talk of it on the campaign trail, despite the desire of their base to toss Trump in the Potomac River. [emphasis added]

This is all well and good but fails on several grounds. First, the decision of staff, or whomever was involved, not to seek 25th Amendment relief does not logically support the assertion that the writer’s concerns weren’t widely held. That argument is similar to the position often espoused by KellyAnne Conway that since Trump won the election, no one cares that he lied about disclosing his tax returns. Second, citing the checks and balances is fine but it’s grossly hypocritical, and worse, to suggest at this stage that the Republican-controlled Congress is going to lift a finger to corral the president.

Jennings closes with a clearly political message.

The writer would do well to view the situation through the prism of an average, middle-American voter who selected Trump less than two years ago. That person is likely to believe that the economy is humming, that optimism is rising, that the President is appointing good judges, and that even the Congress is operating efficiently in what is supposedly a chaotic environment.

There are better ways to handle this beyond signaling that elections and our constitution have lost their usefulness as the means to enact change. Perhaps allowing an election to pass, so that actual voters can consider the facts and render a judgment, is more prudent than circumventing the established constitutional order that has served our republic well.

I suggest that the op-ed author viewed the situation from a greater awareness than worrying about what Trump’s political base may think, especially considering the evidence that many of them don’t think at all. It is far better to think about this issue apart from politics. The “established constitutional order” is hardly “served our republic well” by any reasonable standard. When the substance of the op-ed is combined with other known evidence, not least the revelations in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Fear, it may yet be true that the anonymous author of the op-ed will indeed be regarded as a hero. The election that Jennings prefers as the arbiter of Trump’s performance is drawing close and it will tell us much on that question.

Footnote: I just heard another pundit on CNN saying Trump was “duly elected” and therefore the op-ed author is on shaky ground criticizing him. I repeat: media people should stop saying “Trump was duly elected.” There are outstanding legitimate concerns about the “duly” part of that story that are under active federal investigation. The press has no business just writing such issues off in their discussion of issues affecting the administration.

The Republican Party in Plain Sight

[Apologies for the length of this post, but I did not invent these people, and, with the midterm election just around the corner, it is important that these Republicans get as much exposure among rational people as possible. Then, you’ll know what to do.]

Over the past few months I have been collecting stories about some of the candidates the Republican Party has nominated for various positions in local, state and federal elections. I am going to share some of those stories with you now. Taking a quote from the humorist Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

Let’s start with South Carolina. An article published August 31, 2018 in The Hill.com [https://bit.ly/2wARLRs] reports,

One candidate in the Hilton Head, S.C., mayoral race is a self-described “Holocaust revisionist” who has denied facts of the mass genocide of Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Another praised the leadership style of Adolf Hitler.

Michael Santomauro, a libertarian-leaning Republican, has made his career out of publishing and distributing Holocaust denial literature, The Post and Courier reported Thursday. The Island Packet noted earlier this month that he runs a website called RePortersNoteBook.com – offering rewards to people who can disprove the validity of Holocaust events like the number of those killed or the existence of Nazi gas chambers at extermination camps.

Santomauro told the Post and Courier that political correctness “has gotten out of hand” and that he voted for President Trump in the 2016 presidential election. “He has never run for public office before but said he felt that “with Trump being in the air, that maybe this is my moment.”

Trump “in the air.” I knew something smelled like rotten fish lately.

Santomauro is facing six competitors for mayor on the coastal island and has been denounced by some observers. But,

One of [Santomauro’s] competitors … Rochelle Williams said she admired Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s leadership. “He did what he had to do,” Williams said while being interviewed for her job at a free summer lunch program for children in need. “He got that many people to follow him. He must have been doing something right.” Williams said she liked Hitler’s ability to control his constituents. “I like the power part, I guess, the control part,” she said.

I told you I was not making this up. Not in my wildest imagination could I conceive of a person being that confused and still seeking public office. How do people like this get through a day? The paper reported that Williams’ political party is unknown, but it’s safe to believe she’s not a Democrat, soooo….

But that’s not all. Oh no, not even close to all. The same article reports that,

Arthur Jones, the former head of the American Nazi Party, was the only Republican candidate in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district outside of Chicago. [emphasis added]

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how you get to be the Republican nominee for anything? Just walk in and give the right salute?

But, wait, there is more.

In California, one John Fitzgerald finished second in a top-two primary with nearly 25 percent of the vote (more than 20,000 votes) and will challenge incumbent Democrat Mark DeSaulnier in November. https://bit.ly/2PsjdbU  After Fitzgerald was nominated, the California Republican Party stated they “do not support the Holocaust-denier” despite his running as a Republican. [emphasis added]

According to Newsweek,

the California Republican Party’s Board of Directors took swift and decisive action to eliminate any support for John Fitzgerald due to anti-Semitic comments he made recently—those views have no home in the Republican Party,” a statement said in May.

In response, Fitzgerald posted on his website: “I am not an anti-Semite by any means. I am strictly an honest and ethical person who has the temerity to state fact.” [emphasis added]

And there is more; according to Forward.com,

The California GOP also condemned white supremacist Senate candidate Patrick Little and banned him from their state convention. In Illinois, former American Nazi Party leader Arthur Jones won the Republican nomination for a House of Representatives race after no other candidates ran in a heavily-Democratic district. The state party later said it would back another candidate as a write-in. And in Wisconsin, businessman Paul Nehlen, who was banned from Twitter for anti-Semitism and racism, is the most prominent Republican candidate to replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan.

While local Republican Party organizations appear to be trying to avoid overtly supporting racist, Nazi-sympathizing anti-Semite holocaust deniers, they have failed to explain why these types of people are attracted to the Republican Party in the first place.

One explanation is that these people see the Republican Party as already populated by sympathizers to their rewriting of history. For a prominent example, Rep. Steve King of Iowa retweeted a British neo-Nazi in June. The original author of the tweet is reportedly “one of Britain’s most high-profile white supremacists. He has expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and has called himself a “Nazi sympathizer.” https://bit.ly/2PpH5N8  Curiously, or maybe not,

King’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment … as to whether he condones the views of neo-Nazis, whether he’s concerned his views align with those of neo-Nazis or whether a U.S. congressman should be amplifying a neo-Nazi on Twitter. King’s office also did not respond when asked if the congressman considers himself a white nationalist. The tweet, posted early Tuesday morning, hasn’t been deleted [six days after posting].

….

HuffPost first asked King whether he considers himself a white nationalist back in December, after he tweeted “Diversity is not our strength,” a phrase used for years by prominent racists and anti-Semites like David Duke. He didn’t respond then either. [emphasis added]

According to the cited article, “King has said America should not apologize for slavery, has suggested that the country’s first black president was born in Kenya and has argued that most undocumented immigrants are “drug mules.””

He has also repeatedly expressed admiration for Geert Wilders, the far-right and virulently Islamophobic Dutch politician who has called for banning all mosques and Islamic symbols from the Netherlands. And in March 2017, King tweeted, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.

So, maybe it’s as simple as Nazi sympathizers and racists see people like King in Congress and conclude “I can be there as a Republican too.” And, while some local Republican Party groups have refused to actively support such candidates, the national Republican Party has remained almost entirely silent while its leader, Donald Trump, continues to pursue policies that tend to normalize the extreme views of people like King, Little, Nehlen, Fitzgerald, Jones and Santomauro.

The end result may be that for many Republicans of the more traditional, non-Trumpist kind, the continued acceptance of such people reinforces the tendency to accept even more of them. See What If the Trump Era Represents the New Normal? by Cass Sunstein in https://bloom.bg/2wAGv7z

Evidence for that idea also comes from the two-time refusal of the Republican-dominated Tennessee legislature to move resolutions condemning neo-Nazi activities. https://bit.ly/2PsNdEA The Republicans would not even second a motion so that debate could occur. The story authors wrote:

Condemning Nazis seems like it should be easy to do. But Republicans at the state level seem to be marching in lockstep with Trump, the national leader of the party. When he refuses to directly repudiate or condemn Nazis, despite their support of ethnic cleansing and mass murder, that message trickles down to the state level. The Republican embrace results in legislative impotence, where even a lopsided body cannot find a way to act against obvious hate.

When Tennessee Republicans give neo-Nazis a pass, they have learned it by watching Trump.

More evidence for the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party across the country comes from Kansas, often referred to as the American heartland. The Kansas City Star Editorial Board observed that “it was no fluke that Steve “Hitler was right” West trounced his three rivals in his GOP Missouri House primary, receiving more than twice as many votes as his closest competitor.” https://bit.ly/2CcOf5S Noting that voters might somehow have missed West’s “race-baiting, anti-Semitic radio show” or his “extremist website or his alter egos, which include “Jack Justice” and “Hollywood Hymee,” as well as his “chronic failure to pay child support,” the paper noted that they couldn’t have missed his platform that was “unapologetically anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT.”

a year after the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, GOP primary voters in his Kansas City and Gladstone district had to have known who and what they were choosing. To believe otherwise is to believe that they randomly went overwhelmingly for the only one in the race who was campaigning on hate.

Then, there is the endorsement by the Miami Herald of a Republican candidate for the House seat being vacated by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which candidate, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, says,

she was taken aboard a spaceship as a young girl by blond extraterrestrials who resembled the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. She says they told her that the “center of the world’s energy is Africa” and that thousands of non-human skulls were once discovered in a cave on the Mediterranean island of Malta. She has said she witnessed paranormal activity since then and saw a UFO at age 17. She also said she has been in touch with the aliens telepathically long after the abduction.

https://bit.ly/2oGmXLm Rodriguez Aguilera maintains that her story of kidnapping when she was 7 years old “does not define her.” I beg to differ but what do I know. I was never, to my knowledge, kidnapped by aliens. And, if I were running for public office, would I admit it?

The Herald explained its decision to endorse by noting that two of the candidates had not participated in the paper’s endorsement process and that the others were “unprepared or unqualified.” This, of course, raises the important question of what one must do to be “unqualified” for Congress in Florida? Only the Miami Herald knows.

Some clarity may be gained from another story that a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives admitted that she faked her education. https://bit.ly/2NOPj0O She insisted that in faking her diploma

It was not my intent to deceive or mislead anyone. I made a mistake in saying that I completed my degree. What I did was wrong and set a bad example for someone seeking public service. I am staying in the race and intend to win and lead by example from now on[emphasis added]

The next day, however, reason, or something, prevailed and she dropped out of the race. https://nyti.ms/2KSedKW

If she did not intend to “deceive or mislead,” one can only wonder what she did “intend” to do. By and large, everyone knows whether they graduated from college or not. The degree she claimed to have earned was not even offered by the school whose diploma she purported to display. The Republican concept of “intent” remains a complete mystery. Intent is, of course, also at the center of the obstruction of justice case against Donald Trump. The legal question is whether he had “corrupt intent.” According to the Republican understanding of language, it seems one can lie like a banshee but not “intend” to lie.

Final Reminder: I am not making this stuff up.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania a county GOP secretary, Carla Maloney, called black NFL players “baboons” in Facebook posts in 2017, in protest of black NFL players kneeling or staying the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. https://bit.ly/2PoiKaH

Tired of these over paid ignorant blacks telling me what I should believe in. I will tell you what I believe in and that is our Flag the National Anthem and America period end of story.” …. “You don’t like it here go to Africa see how you like it there. We are all Americans not African American not Hispanic American. WE ARE ALL AMERICAN.

Missing the irony completely,

Maloney complained about “reverse racism” in America and said she was “sick of the name calling, rioting, shooting, and looting.” She predicted a civil war “soon than later.”

Further in the thread, Maloney turned her anger toward the Steelers and her racist language grew even harsher.

“Steelers are now just as bad as the rest of the over paid baboons. You respect your flag, country and our national anthem. How many men and women have lost limbs or died to protect this country and you baboons want respect,” she wrote. “If you want respect you need to earn it and so far you haven’t. Stop watching, or going to a game and paying for over priced food, water and tickets. Let’s see how the baboons get paid when white people stop paying their salaries.”

In a another curious phrasing, the head of the Republican Committee of Beaver County reportedly said, “Those comments do not reflect the opinions of the Republican Party as a whole.” [emphasis added] This phrasing certainly implies that the comments do reflect a portion of the opinions of the local Republican Party.

He also reportedly said Maloney “is certainly apologetic that she put that persona out there about herself.” That “apology,” not delivered by Maloney herself, appears to be merely a regret that she published a racist attitude, not that she regrets holding such views. In her resignation letter, she did say her comments were “distasteful, inappropriate and insensitive.” https://cbsn.ws/2Cg0pL4 One wonders why she did not recognize that before she posted. It wasn’t a close question. In any case, she’s out of office for now.

Moving from the theater of the absurd to the truly out-of-this-world, we have the case of a

Texas minister, Gloria Copeland, who sat on the Trump campaign’s evangelical executive advisory board, [and] denied the country is in the midst of a severe flu outbreak in a Facebook video that went viral because, “Jesus himself is our flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of the flu.

We have a duck season, a deer season, but we don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when someone threatens you with ‘everybody is getting the flu,'” Copeland added. “We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases. That’s what we stand on. And by his stripes we are healed.”

https://politi.co/2Q5bGRe You may be reassured to know that

Public health experts immediately panned the remarks while some other members of the evangelical board distanced themselves from the comments. “We don’t agree with that statement,” said Johnnie Moore, the unofficial spokesman for the panel during the campaign who frequently meets with White House officials on policy and engagement with the evangelical community. “I don’t know a single person in the White House who would agree with that.”

I think I know one. But I’m not telling.

According to Politico, the White House declined to comment and referred the questions to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which then failed to respond.

Every time I see something like this, I am reminded of the Republican article of faith that the states and localities are the true heart of the republic and that power should rest largely there rather than in the big, bad federal government.

The evangelical approach to preventing flu is perhaps not altogether surprising, given that a U.S. Senator who happens to be a doctor (Rand Paul) is on record saying that vaccines can lead to “mental disorders” and therefore there is an “issue of freedom” involved. https://nbcnews.to/2M0qUnq Aligning himself with that paragon of Republican virtue and deep thinking, Chris Christie, Sen. Paul’s position is that parents should be able to decide in an undefined set of circumstances whether their children are vaccinated. Public health authorities do not agree with these approaches, of course, because dangerous infectious diseases are easily spread if children are not vaccinated with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone. But, hey, what’s more local than letting parents decide not to protect their child and thereby expose everyone else’s child to preventable, dangerous illnesses?

 

CVS Customer Service Fail

Back in 2014, I was very impressed with the CVS drugstore chain’s decision to stop selling tobacco. It was the first national retail pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products in all its stores with a claimed loss of $2 billion in sales. That’s a lot of money. And a lot of tobacco. Good for CVS. The company later reported that the decision was associated with a measurable reduction in cigarette sales in areas where CVS had at least a 15 percent share in the retail pharmacy market. https://bit.ly/2MCbzP7

As a regular user of CVS’s pharmacy services, I also buy a lot of other merchandise from their stores. One of the items I bought in June of this year was a package of cotton “rounds.” It looks like this, Beauty 360 being the CVS house brand:

Here is an email I sent CVS about the ensuing problem with the packaging:

The rounds come in a plastic tube designed to be opened at one end to remove the rounds as needed. I placed this package on a rack in my bathroom such that the package rested against the wall. … The package literally dissolved in the humidity of the bathroom and stuck to the wall. I have tried soaking it to scrape it off to no avail. It just damaged the paint.

I can only assume this has happened to others, but in any case, since it is CVS’s brand product, I look forward to your advice as to how to remove the plastic from the wall without damaging the wall. As renters, asking the building to do this could prove very expensive.

There ensued a short series of emails in which CVS asked me to return the product, which they would replace. I did. On July 6. They didn’t. By emails, CVS indicated they were testing the product to verify what I had reported. Weeks passed. More emails were exchanged in which I told CVS that I was not prepared to wait indefinitely for a response as to how the plastic could safely be removed from the wall. Silence.

I always wonder what goes on behind the scenes in large companies like CVS. Its stores are ubiquitous in the Washington area, where I previously lived, and in New York City. The company was reasonably quick to respond to my initial complaint but then, perhaps faced with confirmation of the validity of my complaint, decided to simply ignore me.

One thing is certainly true. I will not be ignored. And, thus, we are here, using the only tool at my disposal to try to shame CVS into responding to my documented complaint about a product sold under its brand. This is not the end of this saga but the beginning. I intend to file complaints in the near future with the Better Business Bureau and such other consumer protection agencies in New York City as I can find. CVS, this could all have been avoided if you had just acted responsibly.

 

Democrats, & Everyone Else, Should Calm Down About Ocasio-Cortez’s “Socialism”

The Republicans, of course, will not calm down about “socialism.” They will see it as the end of life itself, an evil so devious and pestilent that they dare not be alone in a room with it. Since her surprise, upset victory in the New York Democratic primaries, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who herself seemed shocked at the election result, has been making the rounds of TV and other interviews. Journalists, real and cable phonies, have been trying to figure out what she believes and, at least on the Republican side of the ledger, trying to make her look bad.

Ocasio-Cortez has indeed made some gaffes in a few interviews mistaking the total military budget figure for the increase in military funding. Judging by the reaction on the right, you would think she was the first political figure to do this and that the mistakes were likely to disturb Earth’s orbit with their gravity.

There is a pattern in these attacks. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/24/us/politics/women-harassment-elections.html And Ocasio-Cortez is not the only target. https://nyti.ms/2MPLz26 There appears to be a deep-seated and widespread fear among some men that women are, once again, stepping out of line by engaging in actions these bozos believe should be an entitlement reserved for men. This is partly a failure among men to understand biology and evolution. The rest is probably cultural. In any case, candidates like Ocasio-Cortez are not intimidated and may even be stimulated to more aggressive role seeking as a result of the attacks. https://bit.ly/2wMzoZZ

Whatever the root causes for such antediluvian attitudes, they will almost certainly fail to restore the male sense of entitled dominance. If manly status depends on subordination of females rather than earned merit, it is bound to lose the competition in the long run.

The hysteria about Ocasio-Cortez also reflects a basic failure to understand how Washington works. It is easy to adopt cute words and phrases like “drain the swamp” and to use “bureaucrat” with negative connotation. And, of course, Ocasio-Cortez is a “socialist!” OMG, a socialist in our midst. Run for your lives.

No doubt, Ocasio-Cortez’ agenda contains some “radical” ideas. But, so what? She’s not advocating the violent overthrow of the government. And, this being my main point, no one in the Washington power structure can be effective with any agenda without the active collaboration/cooperation/acceptance of many others. That lesson is one that Donald Trump has an impossible time learning and it explains in part why he has failed to achieve almost all of his “agenda.”

Ocasio-Cortez most likely already understands the challenges of promoting legislation at the “edge” of accepted practice. In addition to being female and non-white, both among the reasons for the backlash, she is intelligent and articulate. Harboring illusions about the ease of promoting edgy ideas like health care for everyone seems at odds with her when viewed as a complete person.

Finally, if her ideas are so crazy, disruptive, unthinkably insane, unworkable, why are so many people afraid they will gain traction? Glenn Beck, who, amazingly, seems to still have credibility with some people, called Ocasio-Cortez’s political ideas “diet Communism.” https://bit.ly/2LLiZiC If so, she is doing nothing to conceal them, so the fear of the “enemy within” is more than a little exaggerated. If people like Beck really do, as they claim, believe in democracy, they should be willing to abide the presence of “socialism” in the marketplace of ideas and let the people decide how much of it they want.

A couple of thoughtful articles that are worth reading about socialism in 2018 are “The New Socialist” by Corey Robin, professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center, https://nyti.ms/2o9KnIK; “The Millennial Socialists Are Coming,” by Michelle Goldberg, https://nyti.ms/2tU4ey7; and “It’s not just New Deal liberalism,” by Meagan Day, https://bit.ly/2LLiZiC

Rather than closing our minds in fear of “socialism,” we should be open to new ideas about the role of government, the role of the people and the ways our system of government might be improved for all the people rather than just the entitled few at the top of the social/economic tower.

The Silence of the Wolves – Profiles in Cowardice

As reported in the Washington Post, Republicans in Congress, who swore an oath requiring, among other things, that they execute their constitutional duties as a check and balance against the Executive Branch, have once again shown their lack of integrity, responsibility and courage by refusing to even talk about Trump’s attacks on Omarosa Manigault Newman whom the president of the United States called a “dog,” among other things because she wrote a “tell all” book about her time in the White House.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), second ranked Republican Senator, reportedly said,

“I’ve got more important things on my mind, so I really don’t have a comment on that.”

When asked whether any of Trump’s statements on race made Cornyn uncomfortable, the good senator said,

 “I think the most important thing is to pay attention to what the president does, which I think has been good for the country.”

What those great deeds are is left to our imagination. Cornyn’s deflection of the question translates to “I don’t mind if the president is a racist as long as he does other good things,” presumably referring to the tax cut, one of the few clear legislative acts Trump has led into law. He refused to talk about what his constituents think about Trump’s remarks, calling the question “an endless little wild goose chase and I’m not going there.” Yessir, the question whether the president of the United States and the leader of your party is a racist is of no importance compared to a deficit-exploding tax cut for the rich. Well played.

The Post says it “reached out to all 51 Republican senators and six House Republican leaders asking them to participate in a brief interview about Trump and race. Only three senators agreed to participate: Jeff Flake of Arizona, David Perdue of Georgia and Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate.”

Flake had negative observations about Trump’s long history of racist remarks (“it’s been one thing after another”), but, of course, Flake is “retiring” at the end of his term so it’s pretty easy for him to “stand up” to Trump, particularly when he is not being asked to actually vote on anything.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, another Trump sometime objector (he almost always voted as Trump wanted) who is leaving Congress in January, was also critical of the “divisive” approach on racial issues: “I think that’s their kind of governing. I think that’s how they think they stay in power, is to divide.”

The most remarkable thing about all this is that “Several other lawmakers said they did not like some of Trump’s language, especially on race, but did not consider Trump to be racist.” Hmmh. You can talk like a racist all day but still not be one?

This insight makes one wonder how a Republican identifies a racist. If it’s not their words, what are the hallmarks of a real racist? White robe with eye holes? They burn a cross in your yard? They lynch you?

The Post reports that,

 “Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said Trump’s description of former black adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog” was “not appropriate, ever.” But he stopped short of pointing to a time when he felt the president had crossed a racial boundary.”

“I just think that’s the way he reacts and the way he interacts with people who attack him.” ….“I don’t condone it. But I think it’s probably part built into his — it’s just going to be in his DNA.”

So, another insight into Republican “thought processes.” You can have racist attitudes in your DNA but that doesn’t mean you’re a racist. No wonder Republicans are anti-science and think climate change is a hoax.

We have to recognize and call out racism when it is found and regardless of how it is manifested. The Post reported that “In a January Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted immediately after Trump called African nations “s—hole” countries, 52 percent of Americans said Trump is biased against black people. But among Republicans, 16 percent said Trump is biased against blacks while 79 percent said he was not.”  [emphasis added]

To make matters worse, the Post says, “The president’s defenders say that he is not racist nor is he exploiting the country’s existing racial divisions. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing Russia probe, noted several prominent African Americans with whom the president gets along.

“If the presidents likes you, he likes you — white, black, whatever,” Giuliani said. “He’s not a fan of Omarosa, but he’s become a fan of Kanye West. He likes Tiger Woods, but he doesn’t like LeBron James.”

So, yet another insight. The president is not a racist because “some of his best friends are black.” Uh huh.

And here’s another insight. Ari Fleischer, former press secretary under George W. Bush, reportedly believes that while Trump is wasting opportunities to woo minority voters, there exists a “line between being a boor and being a racist.”

So, making racist comments is just being boorish. Like spitting out an olive pit at a Republican cocktail party. Totally uncouth. Fleischer went on to blame Democrats for claiming all Republican candidates are racists. They lack credibility on the race issue, he said.

Talk about deflection: “yes, my boss, the president, makes constant racist-like remarks but since you are always upset about racist-like remarks, the fault lies with you and not with him.” Remarkable.

So, I hope this little trip through Republican land has illuminated your thinking about what shows that one is a racist. Republicans seem more than a little confused on the question, but not the rest of humanity. If you’re near any Republicans and you happen to be African-American, Latino, an immigrant, almost anything but a white male, watch your back.

Laugh Until You Cry

An article in Newsweek by Emily Zogbi at https://bit.ly/2MppR5G, entitled Trump And Money: The Court Case That Could Blow His Finances Open,” reports that the Justice Department is resisting discovery requests by the plaintiffs (the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia) in a case claiming that Donald Trump’s continued business connection to the Trump International Hotel in Washington is resulting in violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

The Emoluments Clause says, in pertinent part:

“…no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

An “emolument” has been broadly defined by the judge in the case as “any profit, gain or advantage of more than de minimis value, received directly or indirectly.” https://bit.ly/2BoIJwi

This approach, consistent with the historical roots of the Emoluments Clause, raises the issue whether Trump is benefiting financially from foreign firms and officials who choose now to stay in his hotel when visiting Washington.

The dispute over discovery relates to Donald Trump’s financial records and, since discovery is normally broadly permitted if it is likely to produce or lead to the production of admissible evidence regarding the matters at issue, there is likely panic in the Trump legal team and the White House. What Trump and his lawyers are most afraid of is that the document discovery will compel the release of his tax returns that he promised repeatedly he would disclose, then recanted, along with most other transparency commitments.

Now, here’s the laugher: the cited article notes that “the Justice Department objects to any “discovery” on a sitting president.” because “any discovery would necessarily be a distraction to the President’s performance of his constitutional duties.”

This “distraction” argument might have some force in some case (it didn’t concern the Republicans during the Clinton impeachment proceedings), but it’s a pathetic joke when applied to Donald Trump. It is undisputed that the president spends hours a day watching Fox News and similar right-wing propaganda sources, not to mention his Twitter habit, whereby he tweets constantly when events don’t go as he likes. That is virtually every day – in the past 24 hours, it appears he has issued at least 17 tweets, attacking people and newspapers, proclaiming his innocence of crimes and more. And, of course, there is his golf habit. As of March 2018, Trump spent almost 25 percent of his time at one of his golf courses. https://cnn.it/2FPWwL4 He reportedly refuses to read briefing books, or any books actually.

The argument that divulging his financial records, which Trump himself almost certainly never personally touches, is preposterous in light of Trump’s daily habits. The small amount of time required for Trump to participate in the document discovery process can be deducted from his daily TV, ranting and golf time without interfering one bit with the performance of his real responsibilities as chief executive of the United States.

By the way, this situation does not fit into the phony narrative spewed by Rudy Giuliani today on a TV interview in which he said, “truth isn’t truth.” His cited proof was a conflict of statements between Trump and James Comey. Giuliani’s argument is ludicrous for multiple reasons. Two of them are: (1) the President is lying and Comey is not; therefore, there is truth in what Comey said, regardless of Trump’s denials; (2) if there is no truth, then Trump’s declarations of innocence are all false and he is guilty of, among other things, obstruction of justice, collusion with a foreign power to interfere with a national election, violations of federal election laws and treason.

Manifestly, a conflict about whether an event happened or a statement was made does not mean there is no truth. It means there is a conflict that must be resolved and one of the ways we do that in litigation is through discovery. The gang of autocrats and enablers in the White House can’t have it both ways just because a lawyer says “yes is no” and “up is down.” That may have worked in the Humpty Dumpty tale, but not in real life. If Giuliani’s position that all statements about facts are equally true, even if in direct and irreconcilable conflict, he has walked his client into yet another legal dead-end.

Amazon Strikes Again

I don’t want to be seen as having some kind of crazy consumer’s vendetta against #Amazon, because I don’t. But I do believe that a company of Amazon’s scale has an obligation to conduct its business with some regard for its environmental impact. It appears to be failing at that and, given all the threats to the environment by the Trump administration and companies that place corporate interests ahead of the planet’s welfare, this warrants a call-out.

In an earlier post, I complained about what I saw as wasteful packaging procedures involving the use of boxes significantly larger than necessary to move the items in question. Since then, I have placed an order for eight items from Amazon Prime Pantry. The Pantry is the name @Amazon chose for grocery-like items that it now sells. “Grocery-like” is my term but is generally accurate for this service, except that there are many items “located” there that are also sold in drug stores like CVS.

Here is what I found when I opened the enormous box:

The photos tell the story. I was stunned at the size of the box used to ship the eight items which, together, occupied 2040 cubic inches (just shy of 1.2 cubic feet) of space. The box holds 4663.75 cubic inches of space (2.7 cubic feet), more than twice what was necessary for the items in question. The remainder of the space was filled with 4” x 7” plastic air bags, 85 of them!

I understand that it is sometimes unreasonable to expect the packaging to match precisely the combined size of the contents, but that was not the case here. Not even close. This and the package covered in the previous post are not the only times I have seen this.

Compare this photo of a recent coffee order received from Keurig, where the seven boxes almost exactly fit the outer box:

Amazon must do better at operating consistently with the interests of the planet and not just to maximize profits, though one would think that wasting packaging material on this scale leads to higher than necessary costs. You would think self-interest would drive the company to operate more efficiently. Maybe it would if enough customers complained. Amazon, don’t make me come down there!