Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Pledging Allegiance Not To This Country

She was a Democrat who supported Democratic senators Hubert Humphrey and especially Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the latter a neo-conservative before anyone even had heard the term. Then came the nomination of George McGovern for President, reflecting the sentiment of a party which had turned against the Vietnam War and, more generally, war.

So Jeane Kirkpatrick, who later became Ambassador to the United Nations in the Reagan presidency, gave a rousing speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention, excoriating "San Francisco Democrats" (in an era in which "San Francisco" was a synonym for "gay") and declaring- repeatedly- "they always blame America first."

Oh my, have times changed.  The Democratic Party gradually became more hawkish and when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics became simply "Russia," the GOP moderated its fanatical anti-Russia stance. And with the resurgence of Vladimir Putin, once a top KGB agent, Republicans found someone they could respect as head of a nation whose aims had reverted to those of the Cold War.

Nonetheless, as Donald Trump was on the verge of clinching the GOP presidential nomination, then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, observed "There's two people I think Putin pays: (California GOP Representative Dana) Rohrabacher and Trump." Today, McCarthy is one of President Trump's most reliable toadies.

At Helsinki in July of 2018, reminded that USA intelligence sources had concluded that Russia had interfered with the last American presidential election, Donald Trump maintained "President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be."  Trump's fondness for, and trust in, the Russian dictator is well documented and defended by his Party. So as John Oliver would say, "and now this":
Saint Petersburg is beautiful. Baltimore, however, is "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess;" Los Angeles is a "disaster" and San Francisco a "total disaster."  But Saint Petersburg is "beautiful."

Running down America and Americans has become a point of pride for Donald Trump, even sometimes doing it publicly and in foreign lands.  Evidently, he has been a source of inspiration for others as we learned in a video, recently unearthed, of an excerpt of remarks made at Texas A&M University in April. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, evidently pleased with himself, stated

But in terms of how you think about problem sets, I- when I was a cadet, what's the first, what's the cadet's motto- you will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do? I was the C.I.A. director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It- it was like we had entire training courses.

Dear Vladimir- we do it, too, so it's o.k. if you do, especially when it comes to our elections.  It's unknown whether President Trump knew of the Secretary's remark but if he did, Pompeo would have risen in his boss' estimation.

Democrats of the 1970s did not blame America first, merely refusing to absolve it of all blame.  We now have in the Trump Administration a regime which attributes more blame to this country than to its most militarily powerful enemy, Russia. 

Kevin McCarthy in 2016 probably was wrong- Donald Trump is not being paid by Russia. He doesn't have to be. But as demonstrated by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee considering the President's impeachment, Jeanne Kirkpatrick was prescient. Politicians do "blame America first"- but she had the wrong Party.

                                                     Happy New Year
                                                     Feliz año nuevo

                                                    and in honor of President Donald Trump:
                                                    С новым годом

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Monday, December 30, 2019

The Rule Of Law, Out The Window

I was wrong (sort of).  Following the presidential debate in Atlanta in late November, I scolded Rachel Maddow because

Instead of asking the candidates about their approach to impeachment in the Senate or on the campaign trail, the multi-million dollar host would have served the public well with a question such as "If elected President, would you seriously consider pardoning Donald Trump?"

Maddow had asked a similar question- of two candidates- when she stated

Vice President Biden, let me ask you to pick up on the issue that Senator Sanders just raised about no one being above the law. When President Ford pardoned President Nixon, he said it was to heal the country. Would you support a potential criminal investigation into President Trump after he leaves office, even if you thought it might further inflame the country's divisions?

The former vice-president replied

Look, I would not direct my Justice Department like this president does. I'd let them make their independent judgment. I would not dictate who should be prosecuted or who should be exonerated. That's not the role of the president of the United States. It's the attorney general of the United States, not the president's attorney, private attorney.

And so I would -- whatever was determined by the attorney general I supported, that I appointed, let them make an independent judgment. If that was the judgment that he violated the law and he should be, in fact, criminally prosecuted, then so be it. But I would not direct it.

And I don't think it's a good idea that we mock -- that we model ourselves after Trump and say lock him up. Look, we have to bring this country together. Let's start talking civilly to people and treating -- you know, the next president starts tweeting should -- anyway.

He could have made things a little clearer- even clearer- had he responded "no."  If we were unsure what he meant at the time, we pretty much know now that at an appearance Monday in New Hampshire

Biden discussed the possibility after a woman told the former vice president that if he is the nominee, he will "have to pull out all the stops."

"Our 21-year-old son said the other night, 'I wonder if Joe Biden would consider choosing a Republican as a running mate," the woman added.

"The answer is I would, but I can't think of one now," Biden replied. "Let me explain that. You know there's some really decent Republicans that are out there still, but here's the problem right now ... they've got to step up."

We don't know what he means by "step up" but a Republican saying "I wish the President would tweet a little less" might do it.

Asked at the November debate for his response to Biden, Senator Sanders said in part

I think Joe is right, that is the function of an independent Department of Justice. But my inclination is that the American people do believe that this president is in violation of the law.

It's unclear to what Sanders was referring, but it appears that he was thinking more in terms of impeachment than of any action by the Justice Department were he elected President.

Unfortunately, the question was not posed to any of the other Democrats and thus we don't know how any of them would have responded. However, after the debate Andrew Yang remarked "I'd actually go a step further and say not just, hey, it's up to my [Attorney General]. I would say that the country needs to start solving the problems on the ground and move forward."

So if you're keeping score: On "Day One"- presumably the day following the January 20, 2021 inauguration- Joe Biden probably will pardon Donald Trump.  Andrew Yang wouldn't wait till the inaugural balls are over. Luckily, Bernie Sanders probably would wait until February.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Proportionality Uncommon

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has written a column about Ashkenazi Jews and long-time, retired radio talk show host Don Imus hasdied.  Imus is best known, unjustifiably, for his infamous comment about the "nappy-headed hoes" of the Rutgers women's basketball team and there is a critical, albeit indirect and even strained, relationship between the two events. Mike Lupica, the New York sports columnist who was a frequent guest of Imus, writes

people are so often better than their worst public moments. He doesn’t get a pass for what he said about those basketball players. But he also raised millions of dollars for kids with cancer. He started the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He won four Marconi Awards, the radio equivalent of an Oscar in Hollywood. And he did something else, during the first Gulf War: For better or worse, he made politics entertaining on the radio. Suddenly he was having guests on his show like Bill Bradley and John McCain. Around all the jokes and smart-ass, Imus was now doing a morning radio show as smart as there was, here or anywhere else.

Nor is he getting a pass.  Tweets included:

Don Imus has died at the age of 79. Here him and his cohost calling the young black women of a college basketball team “nappy headed hoes” and “jigaboos”

I’m sure there are people in his life who mourn his loss but I’m not one of them.

“Controversial” is an interesting way to say that Don Imus called the women’s Rutgers basketball teams “nappy headed hoes” and “jigaboos”. Good riddance.

Don Imus was a racist and misogynist. He sexually harassed multiple women I know personally.

Was he a pioneer in his field? Sure. So was Roger Ailes.

Not complimentary. Neither were folks on Twitter, such as the journalists below, sympathetic toward Bret Stephens' invocation of "Jewish genius" and his argument that "Jews are,or tend to be smart," at least in the case of Ashkenazi Jews. 

Stephens is not referring to certain races, notwithstanding Feinberg's perception, shared by a famous German of the second quarter of the twentieth century, that Jews constitute a race.  Unfortunately, Stephens brushes aside "the perennial nature-or-nurture question of why so many Ashkenazi Jews have higher I.Q.s" instead of specifically ascribing it to nurture. Had he done so, critics could not as blithely misunderstood his argument that "Jewish genius"

is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different.

He attributes "these habits of mind" from an understanding that, unlike the tangible, "everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting." He believes moreover that Judaism is

a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them.

This is not a matter of race. As God has written, "Breaking news from Mt. Sinai: Judaism is a religion. The millions of allusions to me in every single text and commentary and ritual of the past 3,000 years probably should have been a giveaway."

The American left generally recognizes that slavery has had a lasting (albeit indirect) effect on differential (and greater) rates of familial disorganization, poverty, and crime rates of African-Americans. Today, a portion ironically has risen up to deny any impact of the Ashkenazi Jewish heritage upon modern-day Jews ("ironic" being more sensitive than "hypocritical").

Admittedly, Stephens probably has overestimated his case.  But the reaction to his piece has been overwrought, as has reaction to the death of Don Imus.

We should know better.  A fastidious sensitivity to anything with the scent of racial, religious, or cultural animosity has consequences.

Even when agreeing with it in some particular instances, the American right and center have taken notice of the propensity of the American left to condemn statements and sentiment as racist, misogynistic, or the like.  Along comes Donald Trump, dedicated to dividing Americans along all possible lines- racial, gender, sexual preference, religious, and more- and is rightly called out for the evil he embodies and promotes.

The astonishing reality that 40-45% of the public supports a politician who almost daily lays bare bigotry, crudely and sometimes with profanity suggests that many Americans are perfectly fine with the outrageous persona Trump has fashioned himself.

When there are numerous charges of bigotry against individuals of less importance than the President of the USA, people become desensitized to such charges. If, as it sometimes seems, almost no one is immune from condemnation, they may understandably conclude that Donald Trump is really not that bad, no matter the criticism.

That's only one of the advantages candidate Donald Trump possesses. But it's not insignificant.

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Friday, December 27, 2019

It Doesn't Matter If It's Ridiculous.

Neither the truth nor wisdom matters. A fact-checker, one of the true heroes of journalism and of modern civilization (but I repeat myself):

President Trump regularly caters to the GOP's donor class and industry heavyweights. The New York Times has reported

"Dishwashers used to clean a full load of filthy dishes in under an hour. But now they take an average of two and a half hours and STILL leave dishes dirty!” reads one online petition promoted by FreedomWorks, a libertarian offshoot of a group co-founded by the late David H. Koch and his brother Charles Koch, who made their fortune in fossil fuels. The decline of American dishwashers, the site says, is “all thanks to crazy environmentalist rules.”

The petition, titled “Make Dishwashers Great Again,” is just one part of a broad campaign coordinated by conservative organizations with ties to fossil-fuel companies. Trump administration emails made public as part of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club shed new light on the effort, designed to persuade the Trump administration to weaken standards on a long list of home appliances.

Electricity takes many uses and Trump evidently has another annoyance covered because

Trump told supporters in Battle Creek, MI that if their fluorescent bulbs break, they have to go to a dump "a couple of hundred miles away" to dispose them.

The city tells me they actually have two annual collection events in Battle Creek, two in the county seat 11 miles away.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) December 27, 2019

But the President's complaints serve another strategic purpose, as observed by a Twitterer from the Netherlands who observes  
Trump says those dumb things for a reason; it apparently appeals to people who think they want "less government regulation and thus more freedom in their personal lives." We mock him & those remarks at our peril.

It's not necessary that the remarks are dumb or inaccurate, but they can be either.  James Poniewozik, author of the new "Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America," explained last month to Vox's Sean Illing that Trump's "stock-in-trade is the non-sequitur argument and the provocation." It's "the lashing out,the careening from one subject to another, the seemingly random fights on social media. Trump's act is

not so much about being taken in or thinking he’s totally honest, it’s about this guy who’s fighting for your side. And even if there’s this level of bullshit and artifice, it’s only because he’s a clever trickster. And besides, what’s most important is how he makes his voters feel.

It's about the deterioration of modern life, focused on the politics of resentment, against whatever seems to be making modern life irritating and ultimately exasperating. It's about making voters feel- not even think, but feel- that he's on their side against forces they can't fight against on their own.  Among them are the dishwashers which don't work like they previously did or are expected to, the light bulbs that cost more and aren't supposed to be thrown out but must be taken to a special site. And even eleven miles is a long way to get rid of a simple light bulb. Or a not so simple light bulb.

And of course, the people who Trump supporters believe make them say "Happy Holidays" when in the old days you were comfortable saying "Merry Christmas."  That's probably a minor one- but this is Christmas week, after all.

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

No Link

Beware the pro-immigrant, conservative newspaper columnist. Allow her to speak and to write, expressing her opinions on the intersection of politics and religion, but view her perspective skeptically.

Editor-in-chief of Christianity Today Mark Galli last week advocated removal of President Trump from office.   He cited Trump's obviously "grossly immoral character" and warned "consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency."

In a rebuttal, The Christian Post attacked the "spirit animating CT editor Galli’s 'thunderbolt' from on high.... likely found in the self-appointed Mount Olympus from which Mr. Galli made his 'moral' pronouncement."

Enter the ardently pro-forced birth Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Christine M. Flowers, who responded

I was surprised to see the cheers from progressives and liberals who lauded Christianity Today for criticizing the president.

I’ve written about my Catholic faith many times for newspaper and others, including recent columns about Joe Biden being denied Communion because of his pro-life stance (I agree with the priest) and Nancy Pelosi saying that her Catholicism means she doesn’t have hate in her heart (I rolled my eyes at that).

More often than not, the vast majority of progressives who reach out to me about those columns tell me to shut up about my faith and to keep my rosaries off their ovaries. (And much more colorful language that I can’t print here because this is a family newspaper.) Watching those same types of readers thrill with delight over Galli’s anti-Trump comments was frustrating. It’s hypocritical for liberals to think it’s OK to talk about religion and its relationship to politics when they agree, but to shout “separation of church and state” as soon as the opinion shifts to something more conservative.

Well, O.K.  Ms. Flowers should feel free to continue trying to establish a connection between Catholic theology and conservative political ideology, just as a Christian publication is free to point out the ghastly immorality of Donald Trump and the Christian Post to rebut it in a fairly vile fashion.  The First Amendment, and a commitment to free expression neither slanderous nor libelous, must apply to non-journalists and journalists alike.

Opposition in the Roman Catholic Church to offering communion to individuals in "obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin" does not preclude communion for politicians who merely advocate abortion rights. So, too, does Flowers draw the wrong conclusion when she argues

While Galli and the leadership at Christianity Today are within their rights to call for Trump’s removal, it is the height of hypocrisy for progressives who embraced that message to ever again criticize conservatives who speak out about faith in the public square.

The next time a Catholic priest refuses communion to a public official who supports abortion rights, the liberals who are infuriated need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Flowers has managed to go from point A to point Q while skipping over points B-P. She had lamented that "people who are strong advocates of that presumptive wall between church and state feel uncomfortable when faith is discussed in the same breath as.....  anything else that takes place outside a place of worship." From that she illogically concludes that liberals are hypocritical when they applaud criticism by Christian media (including CT) while knocking a Catholic priest who refuses to offer communion to a pro-choice politician.

I'll agree that liberals (or anyone) should not oppose discussion of faith in the context of politics.  But that has nothing to do with whether Joe Biden or any other pro-abortion rights politician is permitted to take part in the Lord's Supper.  It's almost enough to conclude that this anti-choice warrior has substituted illogic for logic, emotion for facts, and bias for objectivity. She is not one of a kind.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Keeping Her Eyes On The Prize

Testifying before the House Rules Committee in April, ALS patient and Medicare for All advocate Ady Barkan stated

“Our time on this earth is the most precious resource we have. A Medicare-for-all system will save all of us tremendous time. For doctors and nurses and providers, it will mean more time giving high-quality care. And for patients and our families, it will mean less time dealing with a broken health care system and more time doing the things we love, together.

He added: “Some people argue that although Medicare-for-all is a great idea, we need to move slowly to get there. But I needed Medicare-for-all yesterday. Millions of people need it today. The time to pass this law is now.”

Given Barkan's sense of urgency, it is all the more: a) odd or b) telling that he his first choice is not Bernie Sanders but the candidate who supports Medicare for All, phased in division. The Warren supporter adds

I am excited about Elizabeth's plan because I think it strengthens and expands Medicare as much as possible as quickly as possible and then sets us up to complete Medicare for All by the end of her first term. It's a huge deal that her plan in the first hundred days expands Medicare to cover over half of Americans for free...

This is a huge down payment for Medicare for All, which will quickly show the American eople tht it works and positions ourselves to win the full enchilada in 2023, after what should be very favorable Senate elections in 2022.

Not everyone would agree. In early November, after Warren made the strategic error of actually providing details about her health care plan, a Washington Post columnist argued

Warren insists she’d pass Medicare-for-all in the third year of her presidency. But there’s reason to believe this could be even more unlikely than if she pushed for it right out of the gate (and passing it immediately would already be a tall order, if Republicans retain control of the Senate in 2020).

So as Warner Wolf would have put it, "let's go to the videotape." In 2022 (as it currently stands), there will be elections held for 12 seats currently held by Democrats- and 22 seats currently held by Republicans.   The majority of the incumbents will be favored to win re-election.

However, by then Republican senator Chuck Grassley will be 89 years old. Moreover, a few Republicans likely will not run for re-election. If Trump is re-elected, there probably will be a few Republicans bowing out so as not to be further defined by the hedonistic heathen heading their Party, and if a Democrat wins, the handwriting will be on the wall. Long-range prospects for 2022 are favorable.

At that point, either of the two Democrats- Warren and Sanders- who want to get to Medicare for All will still have to deal with the reluctance of many voters to have private insurance eliminated.   However, by that time, the reforms initiated by a President Warren presumably will be sufficiently popular that such a hurdle can be overcome.

To his credit, Senator Sanders introduced- with no chance of passage- the Medicare for All bill in the US Senate, which he never tires of reminding voters. In the House of Representatives, "the bill"- one more ambitious than that of Sanders, was introduced by.....

HAPPY CHANUKKAH                                                               MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Monday, December 23, 2019


When Donald Trump, with characteristic humility appreciated in conservatives by many white evangelicals, declared himself the "chosen one,"

Energy Secretary Rick Perry in an interview with Fox News over the weekend described President Donald Trump as the "the chosen one" who was "sent by God."

"God's used imperfect people all through history. King David wasn't perfect. Saul wasn't perfect. Solomon wasn't perfect," Perry said in the interview, which aired Sunday.

"And I actually gave the president a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago, and I shared it with him," he added. "I said, 'Mr. President, I know there are people that say, 'You said you were the chosen one,' and I said, 'You were.'"

Perry, who is expected to leave the Cabinet at the end of the year, said he told Trump: "You didn't get here without God's blessing."

Former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador and media darling Nikki Haley similarly maintained "everything happens for a reason... I think God sometimes places people for lessons and sometimes places people for change."

Maybe (though probably not) they're right. Perhaps God did effect the election of Donald J. Trump, just as he once had 42 young people killed because some among them ridiculed and demeaned a man for his lack of hair.  If so, it likely is because God in various biblical verses has declared his desire to wreck vengeance upon the unworthy, even unto their descendants.

It's in Deuteronomy 32:35: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them;" in Proverbs 20:22, "Do not say, 'I’ll pay you back for this wrong!' Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you";  and in Psalm 94:1: "The LORD is a God who avenges. O God who avenges, shine forth."

But it's not only in the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth Old Testament, but in the New Testament also: in 2 Thessalonians 1:8: "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus;" in Romans 12:19, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord"; in Romans 12:19 "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

There are three choice: 1) there is no God; 2) there is a God, who wills as he wishes; or 3) God is in control and orders everything as he wishes. The Bible teaches (2) but most white evangelicals appear to believe (3). And if they are right, beware. Beginning with Genesis, there are several examples in Scripture in which God is quite displeased with mankind generally or individuals specifically, is not amused, and exerts His quite unpleasant will.

And so, as many white evangelicals will argue, it is possible that God did ordain the election of both Barack Obama and of Donald Trump, however absurd that thought appears. But if so, there probably is an ulterior motive that only white evangelicals would appreciate. For that, we are obliged to let God himself/herself have the final word, four weeks ago:

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Unwise Assumption

Ezra Klein, who is Jewish and very likely secular (as the tweet below indicates) saw starbursts when he saw Senator Bernard Sanders at the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday night:

 As the tweets- mostly favorable to Sanders, some not- responding to Klein indicate, the Vermont senator has not changed his foreign policy views and has not demonstrated any particular increase in knowledge since 2016.  "Bernie" is, for better and for worse, always Bernie.

Yamiche "not Lou" Alcindor had asked

Thank you, Senator. Let's now turn to the issue of foreign policy and the Middle East. Senator Sanders, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently declared that the United States believes Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. That broke decades-long U.S. precedent. How would you respond to Israeli expansion of settlements? Would you link that to foreign aid to Israel?

In not-response, Sanders commented

Israel has -- and I say this as somebody who lived in Israel as a kid, proudly Jewish -- Israel has the right not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security.

But what -- but what U.S. foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian, as well.


And whether, in my view -- we must understand that right now in Israel we have leadership under Netanyahu, who has recently, as you know, been indicted for bribery, who, in my view, is a racist -- what we need is a level playing field in terms of the Middle East, which addresses the terrible crisis in Gaza, where 60 percent or 70 percent of the young people are unemployed.

So what my foreign policy will be about is human rights, is democracy, is bringing people together in a peaceful way, trying to negotiate agreements, not endless wars with trillions of dollars of expenses.

Having asked whether the candidate would link expansion of settlements to foreign aid to Israel- and not received an answer, the hapless Alcindor responded "thank you, Senator."

Klein may have appreciated that Sanders referred to himself as "proudly Jewish," a wise remark given that the Senator has been inaccurately accused of being anti-Semitic. Further, no one ever loses a vote among Democratic audiences by noting one's status as a minority- a "person of color" (colored person), African-American, woman, or gay. "Proudly Jewish" would be the same, though "proudly Christian" is unlikely to be heard at a Democratic debate.

There is no reason not to be proud of one's religion, whatever it may be. However, there are two remarks which Sanders made which should concern everyone who considers herself at least nominally pro-Israel.

Of relatively minor concern is Sanders' reference to Benjamin Netanyahu as "in my view" a "racist." Given the Prime Minister's attitude toward the peace process, that might be fair- but it is decidedly, demonstrably, inaccurate. The Vermont senator has not stated whether he believes it is the Arabs of the Middle East or the Jews of the Middle East who are not white, perhaps because it is unlikely that the two are of different races.

We do know that the two groups historically have something vital in common because the Encyclopaedia Brittanica explains that a Semite is a

member of a people speaking any of a group of related languages presumably derived from a common language, Semitic (see Semitic languages). The term came to include Arabs, Akkadians, Canaanites, Hebrews, some Ethiopians, and Aramaean tribes. Mesopotamia, the western coast of the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Horn of Africa have all been proposed as possible sites for the prehistoric origins of Semitic-speaking peoples, but no location has been definitively established.

Two conditions would have to be met for Sanders' claim to be valid: 1) Netanyahu to dislike Arabs because of who they are rather than the threat he believes they pose to his country; and 2) Arabs to be of a different race than Israeli Jews, which never has been clearly determined. It is strikingly ignorant or arrogant to assume that the Jews of Palestine and the Arabs of Palestine are of two distinctly different races.

Anthropology and science- two areas evidently not within his expertise- aside, more critical is Sanders' assurance "Israel has the right not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security."

This is hardly a major concession.  Even the head of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, never has denied the right of Israel to exist, nor to do so in peace and security. He simply denies its right to exist as a Jewishstate. That is a fundamental difference of which a U.S. Senator, particularly one who lived in Israel, would understand.

Perhaps Bernie Sanders believed it was unnecessary to specify in the debate that he fully accepts, and is committed to, Israel as a Jewish state. But being one of his prominent supporters is the following, don't bet any of your money on it:

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Bad Question, Bad Responses

At the presidential debate Thursday night in Los Angeles, Judy Woodruff demonstrated that she must never be the co-host of a candidates' debate. However, the responses to her question did reveal that no Democratic candidate knows what it will take to defeat Donald Trump, and that is even more disturbing than Woodruff's question.

It started out badly when the PBS anchorperson stated  "We are coming to the end of our time. A lot of hands up, we apologize for that." That should have been our first clue to what would ensue- if many hands were up, the individuals with the hands up should have been called upon. They might have said something interesting, provocative, or revealing. Evidently, that was forbidden because Woodruff continued "But in the spirit of the season...."

No, again. We can bask in the spirit of the season by communing with family and friends, worshiping, or- more likely- spending money we don't have for gifts people don't need because other people are doing the sam thing. In Los Angeles, for one night, it was a debate to help determine who would succeed the third President ever to be impeached. But she had to go on:

I'd like to ask each one of you, is there someone else among these candidates that you would -- you have two options, one, a candidate from whom you would ask forgiveness for something maybe that was said tonight or another time, or -- or a candidate to whom you would like to give a gift. And I'm going to start with you, Mr. Yang.

Or perhaps they all could have gathered in a circle, held hands, and sang "Kumbaya."  If PBS needed to fill more time, it could have allowed more candidates to respond as they wished to other questions, such as the that immediately preceding- on health care- about which Woodruff had noted "a lot of hands up"(but too damn bad). Alternatively, one of the hosts might have wanted to ask about such arcane subjects as transportation, housing, education, criminal justice reform, privatization, or the financial system. Just a thought.

But that doesn't let the candidates off the hook.  Asking a stupid, inane question, Judy Woodruff served them up a hanging curve ball.

In normal times, asking a politician if there is something they said for which they'd like to "ask forgiveness" is a gift, and a big one at that. Better: in the age of Trump, if the politician can't lift that one out of the park, it suggests that he or she- in this case, both- is not ready for prime-time. The previous night- not last year, last month, or even last week-

"Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty," Trump told the crowd, noting that he'd ordered flags lowered after her husband died. John Dingell had been the longest serving member of Congress, serving for 59 years.

Trump said he gave Dingell an "A-plus" memorial.

"I gave him everything. I don't want anything. I don't need anything for anything," Trump said. "She calls me up: 'It's the nicest thing that's ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He's looking down. He'd be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.' I said, 'That's OK, don't worry about it.'

"Maybe he's looking up, I don't know. I don't know. Maybe," Trump said to loud laughs and groans. "But let's assume he's looking down."

The President thus demonstrated that he is at once extraordinarily needy and possessing the  unique sense of entitlement and exquisite sensitivity characteristic of the politically correct, which conservatives love to hate (or pretend to).

Nonetheless, you are thinking "but that thing about John Dingell being in hell."   These guys and gals want to replace Donald Trump; and are asked whether they "would ask forgiveness for something maybe that was said tonight or another time..."

The pivot is so obvious it could have been performed by a sixth grader.  Consider that the President of the United States of America has just suggested that a public figure- the husband of a living, breathing woman who can (and has) defended herself- now is in hell.

Of course, Christian rightists will not object to Trump's comment, primarily because they don't object to anything the President does or says.  Democrats already have lost their vote. Yet, they will not be offended if a Democrat points out what evangelicals already know: your destination after death is not the decision of Donald Trump or of any human being, but of God.

It should have been easy. Point out that the question- better yet, the questioner- is out-of-touch for asking whether any Democrat has anything to apologize for when President Trump has ruthlessly attacked individuals, political opponents, former allies, law enforcement, religious people, almost anyone. And John Dingell.

And then the zinger: declare that you yourself ask for forgiveness. Frequently, in prayer. To God, to whom forgiveness is due. The commentariat will love that finally (as their members see it) a Democrat embraces "faith," and faith that is not sectarian.  Mildly religious people, or people who wish they could claim religious faith, would love it. Agnostics (and maybe atheists) will have little problem, figuring everyone prays for something sometime- and what is God, anyway?

To be elected President, the nominee has to defeat the incumbent. That should be obvious. However,  the candidates on Wednesday night failed to emphasize that in contrast to him, they are decent, honorable individuals who would not consign another human being- a child of God- to hell. They were served up something juicy- and they took a pass.

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

For Me, Not For Thee

President Trump's letter sent Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was indeed "peppered with insults and falsehoods." Representative was the paragraph

I have been denied the most fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution, including the right to present evidence, to have my own counsel present, to confront accusers, and to call and cross-examine witnesses, like the so-called whistleblower who started this entire hoax with a false report of the phone call that bears no relationship to the actual phone call that was made.
The whistleblower was not "so-called," there was no hoax, it was not a false report (as the pseudo-transcript and committee witnesses revealed), and it bore a close relationship to the actual phone call.

You may be tempted to quip "other than that, the paragraph was accurate," but will resist the temptation. "I have been denied the most fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution, including the right to present evidence, to have my own counsel present, to confront accusers, and to call and cross-examine witnesses....' was brazenly dishonest. It's significant in part as a claim made disingenuously, in one former or another, by many of the GOP Stepfords in their statements on the House floor preceding the vote to impeach the President. 

Assuming- as is unlikely- that Trump actually took time to write the six-page letter himself, the assertions were lies because he no doubt knows, as Elie Honig explained a couple of months ago, "House impeachment is an investigative and (potentially) accusatory process requiring no particular protections for the subject -- much like a subject of a criminal investigation has essentially no right to subpoena witnesses at the grand jury stage."

The target of a grand jury lacks those rights and has no more rights than a ham sandwich, nor a potted plant. He (usually a "he") will be indicted if there is any evidence in the universe against him, after which he is bound over for trial and, in the vast majority of cases, unable to afford private counsel. Then of course, the accused typically pleads guilty to an offense he may or may not have committed but which the state never had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

President Trump (or whatever lawyers wrote this thing in infantile Trumpian fashion) would appear to believe that individuals charged with a felony should have, at arguably the most crucial point at the criminal process, "fundamental" rights. If so, he should implore those states with grand jury systems to reform them or eliminate them in favor of giving defendants greater rights. He is not unfamiliar with effective- unprecedented, actually- use of the bully pulpit.

The chance he will do that is slim and none, and slim has left town long ago.  We knew that because he is Donald Trump, an opinion reinforced eighteen months ago as

Trump’s hasty decision last week to use an executive order to try to end family separation, which happened as a result of his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, sparked confusion and chaos ahead of upcoming congressional votes on immigration.

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” he tweeted. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”

There is little or no chance that Trump wants to deny due process for immigrants and refugees, the majority escaping severe economic deprivation and many of the latter political oppression, simply because they aren't citizens or residents. We know that because, speaking of suspected gang members, eighteen  months ago the President at a rally in Brentwood, NY advised the police officers present

when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, "Please don’t be too nice.”

"Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over” their head, he said, putting his hand above his head for emphasis. “I said, ‘You can take the hand away, O.K.?’”

Wondrous are the manifestations of due process. New Orleans Police Department chief Michael Harrison issued a statement including "The President's comments stand in stark contrast to our department’s commitment to constitutional policing and community engagement.”  That's what makes policing hard, just, and effective.

We've seen Trump's contempt for the Constitution in many ways, including (but not limited to) his attacks on colleges and other enemies and threats to the press, and now in whining about the privileges he wants extended to him which no one else in the country is afforded. The old line is "free speech for me, not for thee," but with Donald Trump it is "license and immunity for me, nothing for thee."

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"Absolute Embarrassment"

Twelve months ago, following former the testimony of former FBI director James Comey before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee, President Trump responded in characteristically juvenile fashion. Posing as the language-challenged guy next door, he tweeted in part "Democrats can't find a SMOCKING GUN tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey's testimony. No Smocking Gun... No Collusion."

"Smocking" twice; nice touch for a guy with a $100 million private jet with a gold-plated commode posturing as the president of the common man. However, in retrospect, the scoop of the segment (to which the tweet links) of Anderson Cooper 360 came when White House reporter Jim Acosta revealed (beginning at 1:21).

I did talk to a source close to the President who said earlier this evening that the President has expressed concern that he could be impeached over some of these issues that you just talked about. He said, quote, it's a real possibility, according to this source but at this point he doesn't see it as certain...

And it wasn't certain for several months afterward. Since that time, though, many journalists, pundits, and others speculated that not only was the President not concerned that he would be impeached, but that he welcomed it.  Nevertheless, we now have strong video and oral evidence, from a fellow from the same shop as Acosta and Cooper, that suggests Trump must have feared his own impeachment:

Although President Trump will respond to being impeached in an obnoxious, belligerent, and dishonest fashion, we may not know for awhile how it, followed by acquittal or dismissal of the charge in the Senate, will affect the 2020 election. But legacies matter. And now we do know to a reasonable certainty that he has been dreading this fate, which is only one of the reasons House Democrats had to take this action.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Now He Tells Us

In the old days, some Jews called it "chutzpah" while other people called it "gall" or "nerve." A more accurate noun might be arrogance, given that the Singaporean "Today" has reported

“There would be less war, kids would be better taken care of, and there would be a general improvement in living standards and outcomes,” added the 44th US president to loud applause from the 4,500-strong audience at the Singapore Expo Convention Hall and Exhibition Centre.

Calling women “pretty indisputably” better than men, Mr Obama said that after two years of leading the world, everybody would realise (sic) that women should run things all the time.

In the interests of full disclosure: I'm not convinced. However, if Mr. Obama really believes it, this would be a propitious time to endorse Elizabeth Warren for President, who if elected would substantiate Obama's theory.

It's highly unlikely, however, that Obama's first choice is Senator Warren, who challenged the President on his appointees, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and on virtually everything that characterized the former President's commitment to maintaining the power of financial industry executives over the American economy.

"Today" added "Mr Obama, who served in office from 2009 to 2017, is also the first African-American president of the US."  As with American news sources, it neglected to mention that Obama became the first African-American President by defeating Hillary Clinton who, rumor has it, is a woman, thus among those who are "pretty indisputably" better than men.

We cannot know for certain what kind of President Hillary Clinton would have been, though she probably would not have overseen what was permitted by Barack Obama who, Matt Stoller explained (in discussing another article)

was a really important president at a pivotal moment in history, when a financial crisis gave him wide latitude to restructure our social obligations. And he screwed it up. Some 10 million foreclosures and no Wall Street felons. There are a lot of other ways he restructured society to make it less free and more unequal. For example, because of the way bailouts were structured, black-owned banks were a tenth as likely to get bailout money as other banks. Obama’s antitrust officials allowed mergers in telecoms, pharmaceuticals, airlines, and tech platforms, concentrating power in radical ways. Obama negotiated a bill to hand over Puerto Rico to hedge funds. And what did Obama do about opioids in rural America? A friend of mine in the administration told me that when the White House finally noticed the AIDS-level epidemic death toll, the suggestions proffered were . . . roundtables....

The gist is that Obama reorganized our markets to push wealth and power upward, and to subvert our liberties.

Does Barack Obama believe that not only are women superior but that blacks- or perhaps whites- are superior? No one knows, but his eight years provide support for his theory about men and women. He's only about twelve years late in acknowledging it.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Not Again

It's time to go down Memory Lane, beginning with a nugget of insight and one of good advice:

PBS' Frontline in 2013 broadcast "The Untouchables," an examination of the Obama Administration's failure to arrest or prosecute any major executive from the financial services industry for the fraud which precipitated the Great Recession. As explained by Glenn Greenwald, the investigation reported that prominent among those pushing the Administration to demand criminal accountability was Joe Biden's replacement in the Senate, then-Senator Ted Kaufman, a Democrat who

worked tirelessly to provide the DOJ with all the funds it needed to ensure probing criminal investigations and even to pressure and compel them to do so. Yet when he and his staff would meet with Breuer and other top DOJ officials, they would proudly tout the small mortgage brokers they were pursuing, in response to which Kafuman and his staff said: "No. Don't show me small-time mortgage guys in California. This is totally about what went on in Wall Street. . . . We are talking about investigating senior level Wall Street executives, even at the Board level"....

As Kaufman and his staffers make clear, Obama officials were plainly uninterested in pursuing criminal accountability for Wall Street. One former staffer to both Biden and Kaufman, Jeff Connaughton, wrote a book in 2011 - "The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins" - devoted to alerting the nation that the Obama DOJ refused even to try to find criminal culprits on Wall Street. In the book, this career-Democratic-aide-turned-whistleblower details how the levers of Washington power are used to shield and protect high-level Wall Street executives, many of whom have close ties to the leaders of both parties and themselves are former high-level government officials. This is a system, he makes clear, that is constituted to ensure that those executives never face real accountability even for their most egregious and destructive crimes.

President Obama and Attorney General Holder thereby demonstrated that when the President (responding to a question about torture and domestic eavesdropping) professed “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he was neither lying nor joking. In a wide range of matters, President Obama had no interest in holding anyone accountable.

Chalk this up as yet another factor in Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton, running for a third Obama term.  Hypocrisy did not prevent the GOP nominee from decrying "corruption" and portraying American government as a system that was "rigged" for the rich and powerful against the common man (as in "man").

It was a brilliant con, given that Trump intended to make things far worse so as to benefit the Repub Party and, especially, himself.  The House of Representatives has proceeded with impeachment proceedings which obviously will result in a mixed decision: impeachment and indictment in the House followed by acquittal in the Senate.

This renders stunning the failure of the current Democratic presidential candidates to affirm an intention to apply the "nobody is above the law" mantra to Donald Trump and his gang of criminals, assuming they are turned out of office next November. This could be done in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, announcing that a former Democratic presidential candidate would be on their short list of nominees for Attorney General. 

Impeachment is necessary, but not sufficient.  The real accounting begins once Donald Trump leaves office sometime in 2021.  At that time, President Obama's approach can serve as a guide- by demonstrating how justice is not to be done.

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Consider Whom Trump Pals Around With

God is in the details, it is said (as is the devil, which must set up some interesting confrontations). Sometimes, however, we can miss the forest for the trees. And so it is that lawyer and Slate columnist Mark Joseph Stern writes

The New York Times published a bombshell report on Tuesday claiming that President Donald Trump planned to sign an executive order that interpreted Judaism “as a race or nationality” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI governs federally funded educational programs, so the Times warned that the order might be deployed to squelch anti-Israel speech on campus. “Mr. Trump’s order,” the Times further claimed, “will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.”

That turned out to be untrue. The text of the order, which leaked on Wednesday, does not redefine Judaism as a race or nationality. It does not claim that Jews are a nation or a different race. The order’s interpretation of Title VI—insofar as the law applies to Jews—is entirely in line with the Obama administration’s approach. It only deviates from past practice by suggesting that harsh criticism of Israel—specifically, the notion that it is “a racist endeavor”—may be used as evidence to prove anti-Semitic intent. There is good reason, however, to doubt that the order can actually be used to suppress non-bigoted disapproval of Israel on college campuses.

The text of the order.... does not redefine Judaism as a race or nationality.  Sorry, but no.  The text includes "Discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual's race, color, or national origin."

If the order does not begin to redefine Judaism as a race or nationality, the sentence in italics would not have been necessary. When discrimination is based on an individuals' race, color, or national origin, it is (as acknowledged in the new order) already considered to be discrimination.  Jews are not under Title VI exempted from protection on the basis of being Jews and thus there is no reason to specify that discrimination against Jews may be based on an individual's race, color or national origin- unless the intent is to link Judaism to national origin.

But I don't want to miss the forest for the trees, arguing legal trivia with a lawyer. what is said about economists applies also to lawyers: get seven lawyers together, there will be eight opinions.

President Trump signed the order at a Chanukah reception with many prominent individuals in attendance. They included Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and New England Cheaters owner Robert Kraft, who are both Jewish- and Robert Jeffress, who is not. Reverend Jeffress in 2009 claimed

Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell. You know, Jesus was very clear. Hell is not only going to be populated by murderers and drug dealers and child abusers. Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.

The statement seemed to many people to be thoroughly and inaccurately antagonistic to "Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism," and clearly Jeffress should have been bumped by a minister more with a more ecumenical outlook .

Aside from that, however, Christians recognize that that Judaism leans upon the Old Testament, one of the two testaments fundamental to Christianity. It is the book that Jesus read, a necessary prelude to the New Testament. Believing and discerning Christians would realize Judaism should not be lumped in with Islam or Hinduism.

Moreover, those four religions do not lead people away from God the Father or God the Son.  Orthodox Christianity, which Jeffress would identify with, teaches that people are in a state of sin ("original sin"), thanks to the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and that darned apple (which may not have been an apple at all, an interesting and insignificant notion).  Individuals inevitably resist the will of God and in a state of enmity toward God but many are drawn toJesus Christ and saved without merit. They are not dragged away from him by Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, or any other creed.

We cannot be sure what President Trump intends with his Executive Order, nor is it possible to determine with certainty what Jeffress truly believes. But the latter has been known to bear ill will toward Jews and was invited to the White House to be part of an affair celebrating an order which can legitimately, if not justifiably, interpreted as suggesting that Judaism is a nationality instead of, or in addition to, a religion.

It would have been much tougher going for Chancellor AdolfHitler had he not convinced many German Christians, Protestant and Catholic, that German Jews were not German.  Donald Trump claims that he has been "chosen by God" but some people, Stern among them, may be loathe to acknowledge the President's intention absent even more overt remarks or actions. By then, in a second term, it may be too late.

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This "R" Stands for More than "Reprehensible"

He's not insane but if Jim Steinman was right that "two out of three ain't bad," three out of four is quite good. Th...