The Danger of North Korea

userpic=divided-nationPresident Trump has just met with the leader of North Korea, and we need to be very very careful and be cautious…

…lest we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Perhaps I should explain. When I got up this morning, I was greeted with a barrage of posts from my friends on the right talking about the achievements of Trump in North Korea. I was also greeted from a barrage of posts from the left dismissing everything Trump has done there — he’s sold us down the river, he’s doing this to get a hotel, he’s doing this because I loves Kim, he’s being naive. Reading both side, it started this post welling up in me.

To my liberal and progressive friends, I want you to think back to those wonderful days when Obama was President. Are you in your happy place? Good. Now, think about how you felt when the right — the opposition to Obama — dismissed anything and everything he did. How in their book, Obama was a disgrace and it was impossible for him to get anything — a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g — right. How did that make you feel? How receptive did that make you to anything the other side side? How did that contribute to the growing divide between the left and the right?

Most of you are too young to remember Richard Nixon. He was a President during the Vietnam War, the man behind Watergate, and the only President to resign. He was an ardent anti-Communist, the VP under Eisenhower, at the height of the Cold War. Yet it was Richard Nixon that first went to China, and got us talking to that nation. It was often said, “Only Nixon can go to China”.

It may be that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

Whether initiated by the Democrats or the Republicans, talking to your enemy is a good thing. Establishing the dialogue. Remember when we were all in favor of it when Obama was President? Remember how we wanted him to talk to North Korea, but it was dismissed as dangerous by the right because he was too naive? Remember.

If we, as progressives, do not acknowledged the few things that Trump somehow does that are movements in the correct direction, anything we say will be dismissed out of hand. I like to say that even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. Think of Trump as that clock. If Trump is able to open a dialogue with North Korea, he has achieved something. He may not be the reason the dialogue has opened, but if it serves to increase understanding between the two countries, if it reduces nuclear tension, that that’s a good thing. More important, if we do not acknowledge it as good thing, we will be doing something the Democratic Party has been expert in: self-sabotage. We won’t need the Republicans to lose us the upcoming the elections, we can do it to ourselves. We did it in 2016, and we can do it again.

It is vital for the success of this nation that we do not self-sabotage, that we acknowledge that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

There are also some important things to remember:

First, Trump and Kim have supposedly signed an agreement. But remember, if it is a treaty or an agreement, Congress must ratify it. How many treaties have past Presidents signed that Congress never ratified, and thus the country was never committed. Right.

Second, it could very well be that Trump is doing this so he can personally gain by building in North Korea. That, actually, is neither here nor there. Remember what I’ve said about collusion: It could very well be that Trump didn’t collude with Russia. Collusion means there is conscious working together to achieve a particular goal. But two organizations can have the same goal and not work together. Russia could have been working to get Trump elected and to get Trump in power for their own reasons — and that includes behind the scenes subtle manipulation of Trump. But that doesn’t mean that Trump was working with them; he just had the same goal. This is the same way that “Independent PACs” can work to get a candidate elected without being in coordination with the candidate’s campaign. Similarly, Trump might be doing this for the personal gain, but that doesn’t mean the end result might not also lower the tension in the region.

The key point here is this: If we are so “knee-jerk” that we can’t acknowledge an occasional stumble into success, we (i.e., we progressives) will be dismissed out of hand by the other side. That, in turn, will make it even harder for us to gain any concessions or make any compromises. It will further solidify the divide in this nation. It could very well keep Trump in power and hurt the Democratic party.


Some People Just Don’t Think Things Through: Trump, Pardons, and Indictments

userpic=trumpThe Internet-verse has been filled today with commentary about Trump’s statement that he can pardon himself but he won’t, and how this is such a miscarriage of Presidential power and such. I call Bullshit. Most of these folks don’t understand what the Constitution actually says; they are pontificating based on what they think it says or what they want it to say. A few points of clarification, based on my admittedly limited knowledge in these areas:

  • The only thing the Constitution prohibits the President from doing is pardoning from impeachment. It also restricts the pardon to be for Federal crimes.
  • Whether the President can pardon himself has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • Whether the President cannot be indicted while in office has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • However, what is clear is that even if the President does pardon himself, he can still be impeached and removed from office. Impeachment and removal is a pretty bad stain on one’s reputation, even with a pardon.
  • If the President does pardon himself, that is an implicit admission that something was done for which a pardon was required, increasing the likelihood of removal from office.
  • If the President does pardon himself, he can no longer ‘”take the 5th”, as there is no longer any risk of self-incrimination. He must tell the truth about what happened and answer the questions. By the way, this is also true for anyone he pardons.
  • If there is enough material to indict and convict the President, there is likely enough evidence to get him impeached and removed from office.
  • Once removed from office, the President is no longer the chief law enforcement officer and can be indicted and convicted, unless pardoned for the specific crime.
  • Once removed from office, the President can be indicted and convicted for state crimes, and can still be subject to civil suits and damages, even if pardoned for Federal crimes.

So, folks, please think things through before pontificating on subjects. Not every statement is what it appears to be.

*: There may have been opinions issued. However, as no President has actually issued a pardon for himself, and no indictment has been brought against a President while in office, the opinion has never been tested.

References: What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law. Episode 14, Prosecuting a President. Episode 13, Criminal Justice and the POTUS. Episode 5: Presidential Immunity. Episode 3: Pardon Power. Episode 10: Impeachment.


Criticizing the Message | Attacking the Messenger

userpic=trumpTwo thoughts on the current kerfuffle regarding Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Michelle Wolf:

  1. I think it is wrong to make jokes about anyone based on how they look (or other similarly protected categories) … ANYONE. In terms of doing it in a political venue: If you would be bothered if the “other side” did it to you, don’t do it to them. There’s plenty legitimate things (actions) to poke at and make fun of.
  2. I think it is wrong to attack the messenger when it is the message that bothers you. If Trump had sent a member of his staff that actually creates policy in some way, go for it on that policy. But SHS is just a mouthpiece attempting to report on that policy; she doesn’t create the policy. You can make fun of over the tops effort to defend the policy, but attack Trump if you disagree with the policy. Again, remember the real source of evil.

In this day and age — the age of #MeToo and worries about cyberbullying — I find that much of what passes for comedy is veiled bullying by those who were likely bullied in school. I’m referring to comedy that makes fun of people for their attributes, looks, size, intelligence, job, etc. Perhaps it is fun in the moment, but it is teasing and bullying none-the-less, and we are better than that. I prefer the gentler humor of folks like Bob Newhart, Red Skelton, George Carlin, Steven Wright, and such. There may be an argument that that aspect of the Correspondent’s Dinner might have outlived its day. I’d disagree with that — the last thing we need to do is censor reporters — but I do believe the comedy that is there needs to poke at the message and the press/newsmakers role with respect to it, and not do attacks on the messengers.


A Lunchtime Rant: Ohm on the Range

userpic=divided-nationEarlier today, a politically conservative friend of mine posted the following cartoon from Legal Insurrection:

Sourced from

My initial reaction is the situation pictured will be about as successful as the “Hate Obama/Clinton” strategy was for the Republicans in 2016.

I’ll let that sink in a minute.

But seriously, the picture highlighted a problem and perception that I have with our progressive, resistance movement. Far too many of us are just as knee-jerk in our hatred of Trump as the Conservative side was of Obama. Look at the memes from groups like Occupy Democrats making fun of Trump. Look at the posts on Pantsuit Nation with people in fear of Trump. As you read memes from our progressive groups, ask yourself if they are the same types of memes you might be seeing from the Conservative side against Obama or Hillary. Hell, you’re still seeing them from that side against Hillary.

An aside to any Conservative reading this: We’ve given up on Hillary; you should too, and let her fade back into the historical record.

We are better than that. I like to think that liberals and progressives are well educated and critical thinkers (which is why we’re liberals and progressives). I like to think that we have in-depth knowledge of the issues; that we take the time to learn the nuances and complications before we tweet. We shouldn’t need to sink to sophomoric name calling, fat shaming, slut shaming, ad hominem attacks, and all the other silliness that I see.

The issues in the upcoming elections are critical not only to our nation, but to the world. They are complicated issues — health care, climate change, treatment of women and minorities, religious freedom, equality, economic class warfare, and much more. I like to believe we have the better positions. I like to believe that we can represent and discussion those positions, and win based on the strength of our arguments — even in the face of conspiracy theorists. Certainly, in a fact based discussion, we can demolish Trump’s position and expose them for what they really are, and who they do and do not benefit.

If our platform for 2018 and beyond is simply hatred of Donald Trump, we’ve lost. We’ve let partisanship eclipse our intelligence and common sense. Let’s win the upcoming election season not by dropping down to the level of hatred, but by rising up to the level of intelligent political discourse where we take the time to listen to the other side, and use our intelligence and critical thinking to refute their arguments and to convince them of the correctness of our positions.

Hatred never wins. Well, except when you manipulate the electoral college and district boundaries.


Girth Certificate? Really?

userpic=trumpEver since the report came out on the President’s health, the liberal groups I read have been in an uproar? “How could it be true”, they ask. “They’ve got to be lying about his weight — I demand to see a girth certificate“, they jest, while posting pictures comparing the President to athletes.

C’mon folks. As they say, “get a life”. This is a distraction, a diversion. There are more important things to focus on. Consider:

  • Does it really make a difference if the President is obese, other than to make fun of him? They say, when he sits around the White House, he sits around the White House.
  • As for mental health: Be careful what you ask for. Although a President with mental impairment does make a case for invoking clause 4 of the 25th Amendment, that likely wouldn’t happen anyway, and I hope you’re not wishing that the leader of the free world is crazy. Perhaps you’re scared that maybe he isn’t crazy and knows exactly what he is doing. I find that a lot scarier, given what he is doing. Further, passing a mental acuity test doesn’t mean he has the right skillset to be President, or that he has sound judgement, which is different than smarts. Mental tests don’t judge personality issues or things like self-aggrandizement or narcissism.

As I noted, the health issue is a diversion, a focus of our attention away from issues like DACA, the President’s racism, and the potential illegal, impeachable acts that are being investigated by Mueller. Don’t let yourself be distracted.


I Can Deal With The Shit, It’s The Farts That Wear Me Down….

userpic=trumpOne of my favorite quotes from William Mulholland serves as the title of this post, “I can deal with the shit, it’s the farts that wear me down.”. He said it about endless lawsuits over the LA Aqueduct construction, but it equally apropos to the current shitstorm in Washington DC.

Folks: The issue isn’t whether Trump said shithole or shithouse, or that he used profanity at all. Listen to the Nixon tapes. He swore. The issue is the racism underlying what he said. I had a link that explained this well in a recent post. In short, he was indicating that people from a particular region — predominately black and brown — were not welcome in the US, while people from another region — predominately white — were. That’s racism. He wasn’t looking at individuals and their particular skills, health, or other attributes. He was making a blanket statement based on stereotypes of origin.

What prompted me to write this post was another article I saw today exploring how Trump is serving to make explicit the formerly racist subtext, and how a particular segment is responding to those dog whistles. It had a particularly cogent conclusion that bears repeating:

It’s possible to take a “rule of law” attitude toward unauthorized immigration while welcoming legal immigrants (though most Americans who are exercised about the first also oppose the second). It’s possible to support lower legal immigration, on balance, to the US, without caring much about where those immigrants come from.

It’s possible to support “merit-based immigration” as a way to affirmatively select each individual allowed to settle in the US, and oppose forms of immigration — including family-based migration, humanitarian migration, and the diversity visa — that have any criteria other than an individual’s accomplishments.

The problem is that some of the people who espouse all those attitudes are consumed, at heart, by the fear that the America they know is being lost or in danger of being lost. They believe that America has a distinctive and tangible culture, and that too much immigration from cultures that are too different will dilute or drown it; they may even worry about a cultural “invasion.”

This is an anxiety born of xenophobia. It accepts as a premise that people who come to America from certain places “don’t assimilate,” and concludes that there are some groups of people who cannot ever be fully American.

The policy aims of restrictionism can be negotiated and legislated — even as the extent to which they’re underpinned by racism will inevitably be part of the debate. It’s almost unimaginably hard to figure out a way to “end chain migration” that would both pass Congress and avoid a collapse of the immigration system, but it’s still a discussion that can happen.

You can’t negotiate with people who believe that an America that lets in people from “shithole countries” isn’t the America they know or love. Either America is a nation of immigrants or it is a nation of blood and soil.* It cannot be both.

To me, in the end, it is a question of power. Why won’t Puerto Rico be admitted as a state? Because it would vote Democratic, and thus dilute Republican power. That’s a political equation that goes back to the Civil War, where a slave state could be admitted only if paired with a free one for balance. Similarly, why don’t the Republicans want to admit minorities? Because they believe they would vote (when they become citizens) in such as way as to dilute their power base, in such a way that is a threat to the caucasian male privileged leadership positions they possess. And thus, racism and hatred of the other are embraced because it keeps them in the swamp. Drain the swamp? Hell, they are the swamp.

If you want to get rid of the swamp, the answer is not to drain it, but to dilute it with fresh water. Bring in new blood, new ideas, and embrace the diversity of thought and solutions. Try things that haven’t been tried. That is what immigration — from all over the world — brings to this nation, and we have shown with our growth the power that diversity can bring.

From Wikipedia: Blood and soil (German: Blut und Boden) is a slogan expressing the nineteenth-century German idealization of a racially defined national body (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”). By it, rural and farm life forms are not only idealized as a counterweight to urban ones, but are also combined with racist and anti-Semitic ideas of a sedentary Germanic-Nordic peasantry as opposed to (specifically Jewish) nomadism. The contemporary German concept Lebensraum, the belief that the German people needed to reclaim historically German areas of Eastern Europe into which they could expand, is tied to it. “Blood and soil” was a key slogan of Nazi ideology.


Transitive Hate

userpic=trumpDo you remember how, in high school, you learned that if a=b and b=c then a=c? Do you remember learning that what you say is important, because your words often reflect your innermost beliefs? Today, you need to put that learning into action.

I do not care where you are on the political spectrum. I do not care what your personal position might be on financial, immigration, or any of the myriad policy discussions floating around right now. If you do not believe that your Senator or your Congresscritter must push for a resolution to censure, condemn, or otherwise reprimand the President for his language today, then you are guilty of holding the same racist, sexist, and hateful beliefs that are espoused by this man.

We’re all aware of the President, on tape (before he was President) talking about how he behaves towards women.

We’re all aware of the President, on tape (during the campaign) mocking the disabled.

We’re all aware of the President saying America is “going to hell” because the NFL defended openly gay player.

We’re all aware of what happened in Charlottesville, where he implied support for the antisemitism of the marchers.

But today … today …  Growing frustrated while discussing immigration with lawmakers in the Oval Office, President Trump suddenly asked why people from “shithole countries come here” — referring to people from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations. He also asked why more people from Norway don’t come here. (ref: Buzzfeed, Vox, Los Angeles Times)

Just unpack that. We need more white Nordic people. We need fewer people that look like shit (i.e., coming out of a shithole, i.e., brown and black). That is so incredibly racist, especially in this day and age. It harkens back to the worst of America — the treatment of the Irish, Italians, Jews, and other minorities. It harkens back to the attitudes used to incite Germany against foreigners and those who are not Christian. It is language that in multi-cultural American must be universally and soundly condemned. This is not how our President talks. This must not be how our President thinks. The President is not the President of White Christian American, but of all America, and he is bound by law and oath to follow the principles of equality enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

The President’s speech is not an impeachable offense. However, offensive speech demands a response, rebuttal, and accountability. Every American must demand that their representative introduce / publicly support a resolution stating that such speech does not represent America, and is not appropriate to be said by a President of this nation. It must say that such speech — from the President — is unacceptable, and does not reflect the views of Congress or America.

Any representative or senator that does not condemn what has been said, by the law of transitivity, in my eyes is considered to hold the same view. I hope that you view them similarly, and that on election day (if not before) you remember this behavior.

[ETA, with a hat tip to Jay L.: This echoes what I say above, as well as giving the background of why censure is the appropriate response.]


2017: In Which “The Me Generation” Earns Its Name

userpic=trumpAs I look back at 2017, not surprisingly, I’m dismayed by … Donald Trump. That’s probably not a surprise. Trump is a salesman in every sense of the word — and a great one at that — promising a lot of stuff to a lot of people. They buy the car and drive off the lot, satisfied in the deal they received. Only a few months after buying the car they discover it was held together by spit and duct tape, and that the promises weren’t quite what they seemed. This tax bill will be a great example of that. A large number of people — primarily those in areas that didn’t support Trump — get hurt immediately. Others benefit, but only for a few short years because their benefits expire after Trump leaves office. Why do they expire? Because without the expiration, they will balloon the deficit to unacceptable levels (this being done by the party that supposedly was against deficit spending). Other benefits — significant cuts for businesses, and especially for businesses where Trump is doing business — will be permanent.

Trump’s approach on what to do in office appears to boil down to the following:

  • Do anything he can do to undo Obama’s legacy. If Obama did it, he wants to undo it, whatever “it” is.
  • Do anything he can to please his most rabid and strongest base, the people that adore him unquestionably. That means acting in ways that reinforce what they do and what they believe, and constantly dog-whistling messages to them.
  • Do anything he can to please his Republican-party donors and benefit himself personally, as his biggest donor.
  • Do anything he can — in the short term — to make it appear as if promises were fulfilled. If those go away later, that’s someone else’s problem — someone else to blame.

Although he touts “Make America Great Again” (a slogan he trademarked), his actions do not fulfill those words except in the eyes of “America First” Americans. In the eyes of the rest of the world, he is a laughingstock, and he is reducing America’s stature. He is permitting non-democratic countries to become the world leaders, especially China. He is playing to the hands of thugs and dictators, and arguably increasing the risk of war. But within America, America is great if you say it is and act like it is, and downplay any attempts to tell a different story. That’s a propaganda win.

It has also been a win for selfishness. Our society has become increasingly selfish. From the growth of the selfie and the focus on MEEEE in the picture (and away from the others in the world we love), to a tax plan that people only look at from how it benefits or hurts them personally, we no longer think of the others in the world. We no longer seem to care how others are affected. We no longer think long term and think about hidden implications and impacts. If it benefits me personally now, it’s good, and that’s good enough. That’s a dangerous, self-serving attitude.

I do think this is a great country, and I hope we can survive Trump’s administration — however long it is — and we can recover afterwards. We’ve had populist demagogues before — witness Andrew Jackson. We’ve had idiots in the office. We’ve had corrupt Presidents. Somehow, we’ve survived. But during their terms, was the ride ever bumpy; further, the office was less international and there was less risk of instigating global catastrophe.

If I had a wish for 2018, it would be for sanity to return to politics. Legislation should not be passed on strict party lines. That’s what doomed the ACA because of the seeming single-sidedness. That’s what increases the hatred of the 2017 tax reform. Politicians must work to find a middle ground that can create broader acceptance. Give on some areas, gain on others, for the sake of the Nation as a whole.

In other words, America can only regain its greatness when what is put first is not Trump’s personal interests, not the personal interests of the Republican (or Democratic) leadership,  and not what benefits the political party and its donors. Even putting the “notion” of America first — that is, the flag, the symbols — isn’t the answer. It is not putting first the ideas of the 1700s and 1800s of Christianity first, of White Men first, of women and people of color as chattel, of those different from us as bad and the source of all evil.

What will help America regain its greatness is to put the American people first — and that’s ALL the American people and all future Americans — the full range of skin colors, genders, orientations, and religion. It is the full ranges of birth places: those born here and those born abroad who want to work hard and tie their destiny to this nation.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t how our leaders of 2017 acted, and come 2018, they are going to be so fired.