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Courtney Town Hall

My wife and I went to Joe Courtney’s Town Hall last night. A few reaction:

First, I was a bit surprised that the crowd was, so far as I could see, universally supportive of Joe. If there were Trumpies there, they kept their mouths shut.

A lot of the questions were about Obamacare, and it must be said that Joe has incredible command of the details of the program, and he’s quite frank about acknowledging some of its shortcomings. As a bit of digression, it’s beginning to look like the Republicans may, due to public pressure and an inability to come up with a reasonable alternative, leave the program unscathed. If that does happen, there will be a delicious irony. There may come a day when they regret christening it “Obamacare”. The guy is already missed, and attaching his name to a program that only grows more popular the more it is threatened will only make people miss him more. He wasn’t perfect, but he looks like a giant next to the man with the small hands and his fascistic puppet master. Might it not be a good idea for the Democrats to embrace the “repair” part of the present Republican mantra and start talking about “Medicare for all”, something, I will say yet again, everyone can understand and no one can misrepresent.

I have one small criticism of Joe’s performance, and I think it highlights a problem with national Democrats generally. It was clear to me that most people in the crowd appreciated the danger we face. It’s not just a question of policy differences. We face an existential threat, and that’s what has gotten people riled up. One questioner asked Joe what national Democrats were going to do to oppose Trump, and Joe drifted off to talk about policy successes. That’s not what people are looking for; they are looking for full throated opposition, done in an effective way. That means coordinated responses and a unified strategy. Unless the Democrats appreciate the need to do that, whether out of patriotism or fear for their own political survival, there’s not much chance the republic can survive.

Anyway, it’s to be hoped that this energy won’t dissipate. Our local Town Committee had a meeting Wednesday night, and we had more non-members in attendance than members. We see it as a golden opportunity to bring in some fresh and much younger blood. I’ve been on the Town Committee for about 30 years. When I joined, I was one of the younger people on the committee. 30 years later, I’m still probably south of the median. If the party, locally and nationally, can coordinate with the various resistance groups springing up, we just might be able to preserve the republic. 

South Carolina on the Sound

The tweet from Chris Hayes linked to a story titled “Interracial couple fined for not removing racial slur spray painted on their garage.” I figured, for sure, it happened somewhere in the Confereracy, but:

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — An interracial Connecticut couple whose home was vandalized by a racial slur has been fined for failing to cover it up.

The Stamford Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2lAiTvP ) the slur was spray-painted over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend on the garage door of Heather Lindsay, who’s white, and Lexene Charles, who’s black.

Lindsay says their home has been vandalized multiple times. She says Stamford authorities have failed to properly investigate and she won’t remove the slur until they do.

The city issued a blight citation, which carries a $100 daily fine.

via AP

I suppose the City is hyper technically in the right, if one wears blinkers.

Add these to the list

Yet more impeachable offenses. First up:

Virtually overnight, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s members-only Palm Beach, Fla., club, has been transformed into the part-time capital of American government, a so-called winter White House where Mr. Trump has entertained a foreign head of state, health care industry executives and other presidential guests.

But Mr. Trump’s gatherings at Mar-a-Lago — he arrived there on Friday afternoon, his third weekend visit in a row — have also created an arena for potential political influence rarely seen in American history: a kind of Washington steakhouse on steroids, situated in a sunny playground of the rich and powerful, where members and their guests enjoy a level of access that could elude even the best-connected of lobbyists.

Mr. Trump’s son Eric, in an interview on Friday, rejected suggestions that his family was offering access to his father and profiting from it. First, he said, only 20 to 40 new members are admitted per year, and second, the wealthy business executives who frequent the club, among others, have many ways to communicate with the federal government if they want to.

“It assumes the worst of us and everyone, and that is unfair,” Eric Trump said.

Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, said the president had no conflicts of interest, a reference to the fact that federal law exempts him from provisions prohibiting federal employees from taking actions that could benefit themselves financially.

via The New York Times

As a side note, assuming the worst about Donald Trump is merely prudence.

Next up:

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, met with a senior Time Warner Inc. executive in recent weeks and expressed the administration’s deep concerns about CNN’s news coverage, according to a White House official and other people familiar with the matter.

While the administration is battling a large swath of the media, the fight with CNN has special intrigue because its parent company has a massive piece of business awaiting government approval: a proposed $85.4 billion sale to AT&T Inc. Messrs. Kushner and Ginsberg, who have been friends for a decade and whose discussion covered a variety of issues including Israel and the economy, didn’t discuss the merger in their recent meeting, said the people familiar with the matter.

In the final stretch of the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump said he would block the agreement and singled out the news network in his statement. “AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration,” he said. The deal will be reviewed by government agencies including the Justice Department.

via Hullabaloo, quoting the behind a paywall Wall Street Journal.

CNN appears to be resisting the pressure, probably, at least in part, because its mildly anti-Trump coverage has been good for its ratings, despite Trump’s claims that they are going down. (Imagine, Trump lied about that. Who would have thought?)

Once again, imagine if Obama, or Clinton, had done something even approaching either of the above. We would never hear the end of it. With Trump, it’s covered for a day and then down the memory hole. It’s not only that IOKIYAR. It’s also a function of the fact that it’s all written off as Trump being Trump.

It reminds me of a phenomenon some of my fellow lawyers will recognize. There are certain lawyers who make a habit out of doing outrageous things. They do them so often the judges stop taking notice, and it just becomes a case of Attorney X being X. If one of the rest of us, who normally behave according to accepted norms, behaved similarly, we’d get slammed.

Anyway, two more impeachables for the record.

Duly noted

I’ve stopped keeping count. Yet another impeachable offense:

When China awarded President Donald Trump a long-coveted trademark of the “Trump” brand this week, it violated its own regulations. Chinese legal standards prohibit trademarks of the names of foreign leaders.

Trump secured exclusive rights for the use of his name for “building construction services” in China on February 14 after a 10-year legal battle. But he had little success in his quest for a Chinese trademark before he became the Republican nominee last summer.

The apparent preferential treatment for the U.S. president could land Trump in legal trouble back at home.

via Truthout

Well, of course it won’t land him in legal trouble, as the United States government is now among the most corrupt on earth, and the Chinese are merely capitalizing on that fact. Read the whole article, as it is worse that the first few paragraphs might lead you to believe. The case had gone to what American lawyers would call “final judgment”, i.e., all appeals were exhausted. But the Chinese reversed themselves after the election to curry favor with the Donald. He is trading on his office in a way that is truly both unprecedented and unpresidented.

Worth a thousand words

Obama had his faults, but I’d say this is just about right.

Quotable quotes

Richard Nixon: “I am not a crook”
Donald Trump: “I’m not ranting and raving”

Speaking of Watergate, I remember there was a moment when I knew he was a goner. It was the day we found out that his coversations were tape recorded. At that point it took on some of the elements of Greek Tragedy. His downfall was certain, it was just a question of how.

I wonder if there will be a moment like that with Trump.

A bit of a quandary

I think it was only a day or two after the election that I started to hear predictions that Trump would not serve out his term. At first, I dismissed the notion out of hand. He was a valuable commodity to the Republicans; on his watch, they could do whatever they liked so long as they kissed his ring. He has no fixed beliefs, after all, so he will be willing to let them do as they like, as long as it doesn’t take a dollar out of his own pocket. The idea of a Republican congress impeaching its own seemed ludicrous.

The events of the last week or so have made me re-think my position. It is entirely possible that, as more facts are leaked to the press, the Russian thing could be the beginning of the end for him. The Republicans might very well come to the conclusion that Pence is a more than acceptable alternative. In fact, I’m sure they would prefer that Pence were president, and one of the major things holding them back from dumping Trump is the political damage it might do to them. As time goes on, and Trump becomes more of a liability, they may decide that they have more to lose than gain by keeping him in office.

Which brings me to the quandary to which I refer in the title.

I would prefer Pence, because if Trump is overthrown, the fascists who surround him will go down with him. We can probably survive Pence, but I’m not sure we can survive Trump. But it’s the mechanism that might lead to Trump’s downfall that gives me pause.

It seems clear to me that the intelligence community, with the obvious exception of the FBI, does not like Trump. He can’t change that by changing the heads of the various agencies. Those who have dedicated their lives to that type of service are fully capable of going rogue if they believe the President of the United States is a danger to their view of what the world order should be. My guess is that we will see a steady stream of leaks about this Russian stuff and probably other dirt the various intelligence agencies have on Trump and his lackeys. Over time, everything in that uncorroborated report (you know, the one with the peeing prostitutes) will be corroborated or confirmed by unnamed sources within the intelligence community. They probably even have the videos. It makes sense to release it in dribs and drabs. Given the present state of the Republican Congress, if it came out all at once there would be some tut-tutting and then forgetting. But if it comes out slowly it becomes a constant presence on the front page, and the pressure will build for them to do something about it.

At the same time, Trump will be giving them ever more grounds to dump him. They really don’t have to prove high crimes and misdemeanors anymore, though for the reasons set forth here, the 25th Amendment is probably a non-starter. Still, his obvious mental illness could be a factor in pushing them towards impeachment, and provide some cover for them. It wouldn’t be hard for them to come up with some impeachable offenses, considering the fact that he is using his office for personal gain and has probably made a corrupt bargain with Putin.

But, let’s get back to the intelligence community that will be feeding the frenzy. They will be ultimately responsible for what will be, in a very real sense, a coup engineered by them. If it happens once, it can happen again. In fact, in a way, it has already happened, since Comey staged a pre-coup prior to the election. The question is whether the Bannon administration poses such a serious threat to the Republic that we should be willing to swallow hard and overlook the manner in which it is taken down. I find it very strange to find myself on the same side as the CIA, but I also consider stopping the march of fascism to be our number one priority.

Overall, I incline toward the view that the threat from Bannon is too great, but I would freely admit it’s probably too close to call.

Movin’ On

The amazing thing about the gall of Republicans is that no one notices it anymore. Check out what Congressman Chris Collins had to say about his interest in finding out how cozy the Trumpies are with the Russians, now that Flynn has resigned for being too cozy with the Russians:

“Well, to be honest, I just live in a world where I always move forward,” Collins said. “In a busy world, you don’t dwell in the past.”

via Rawstory

I don’t even have to look to know how he voted so far as endless investigations into Hillary Clinton are concerned. Hypocrisy is too mild a word to apply to the Republicans nowadays. Where is George Orwell when we need him?

Lessons from Italy

My son gave me a subscription to Jacobin Magazine for Christmas. It’s a quarterly, and I received my first post-election issue today. I didn’t read much in the last issue, because it was pretty much premised on the certain Clinton victory.

Unfortunately, I can’t link to the article about which I’m writing, as it isn’t on line yet. It’s by David Broder (no, not that David Broder) titled Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough. I’ll summarize, because I think he makes some excellent point.

His central thesis is that what happened here in 2016 happened in Italy when Silvio Berlusconi was elected. The opposition pretty much united in a single party. Ideology and policy pretty much went out the door, and their sole focus was attacking Berlusconi. As with Trump, he was a crypto-fascist with kleptocratic tendencies. It didn’t work, or at least it didn’t work well. The opposition was perceived as standing for nothing, and when, after too many years, they finally got power, they had no agenda other than the austerity politics that has destroyed the economy there.

The lack of an alternative message was at least one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost. People sensed on a visceral level that she was more of the same, only more so. Going forward, if we’re going to get rid of Trump, we have to not only oppose him at every turn, but we have to stand for something that is more than simply being against Trump. Broder concludes:

The Left’s alignment with neoliberal centrists against Berlusconi did nothing to thwart right-wing populism or keep racism out of politics. It guaranteed these forces’ unchallenged hold over millions of voters, while destroying its own alternative voice. Looking over the wreckage of the 2016 campaign, the US left must avoid making a similar mistake.

 

The article should be on the Jacobin website soon, or you can download the magazine when it become available (Winter 2017 issue). It’s well worth reading.

Happy Birthday, Abie Baby

Today is the natal day of the greatest American president. The fact that he became president at all should give us hope. He succeeded a string of mediocrities who had, at best, stood by while the nation careened toward destruction. What were the odds that a man of his abilities would occupy the White House just when we needed him most? In a different universe, the Republicans nominated John Fremont again, and this time, he won.
So there’s always hope. If the present day Republican Party (so removed from the party of Lincoln) does not completely destroy free elections by 2020, some person may arise to lead us back to a republican form of government. It will probably take another Lincoln to get the job done, and I’m not sure even he would be up to it. At the moment, I can’t see that anyone fits the bill, but then, in 1860, no one knew that Lincoln would belong to the Ages.