Saturday, December 30, 2023

Please Don't Do This

I have a thought  or two.

CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig also has a few thoughts about the effort in Colorado and in Maine to bar Donald J. Trump from the presidential primary ballot pursuant to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which reads 

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Honig asks, nearly rhetorically, of the judicial process  in the two states "were these hearings fair? Did they comport with due process?"

The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the state's Attorney General to block Trump from being on its presidential primary ballot, though the decision has been stayed. Maine's Secretary of State has determined that the ex-presidential shall not be on the primary ballot in a move which will almost certainly be appealed.

As Honig realizes, the issue of due process will give the US Supreme Court an opportunity to overturn the rulings in the two states with the Court choosing to skirt the substantive issues involve, perhaps a win all around unless your name is "Nikki Haley."

In the video attached to the tweet above, former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod is seen remarking "He's only gained since he got indicted. What we thought would be kryptonite for him turned out to be battery packs."

Not true. Most people (albeit with many exceptions) did not believe that indictment of President 45 would undermine his effort to be nominated by the GOP electorate. Moreover, whether Trump's legal troubles would help, hurt, or have no impact in a general election is very much uncertain, especially because we don't know what the status of the indictments will be come next fall. Nor is it at all clear that the numerous charges actually have aided Trump's bid to be nominated, as Nikki "tell me what you want me to say" Haley has risen in the polls as she (cowardly) argues "I agree with a lot of his policies, but the truth is, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him."

Yet, Axelrod does understand

And this is a big one for him. Presumably the Supreme Court will deal with that fairly quickly and I expect they will leave him on the ballot and yes, Brianna, I have very strong reservations about all of this. I do think it would rip the country apart if he were actually presented from running because tens of millions of people want to vote for him. I think if you're going to beat Donald Trump, you're probably going to have to do it at the polls.

Of course, it would rip the country apart or, rather, rip it apart more than it already is. There were two instances of impeachment, which polarized an already polarized nation. The charge in the latter case was "incitement of insurrection" and as in the first impeachment, it ended in de facto acquittal, of Donald Trump. Then there was the January 6 Committee, which recommended the Department of Justice level charges of Obstruction of an Official Proceeding, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, conspiracy to Knowingly Make a False Statement, and Aiding, Assisting, or Comforting an Insurrection.

But Special Counsel Jack Smith decided not to charge the former President with insurrection. Thus, Trump never has been charged with insurrection and obviously never has been found guilty of being involved in an insurrection.

Tens of millions of people want to vote for Trump, as Axelrod maintains, and it's not only likely that he cannot be beaten otherwise, in the absence of any criminal conviction whatsoever- as is the case presently- it probably is the sole manner in which he should be defeated.

Nonetheless, the drive to deprive Trump of any chance of becoming President again is a terrible idea for a reason Axelrod hints at, though omits. The country could survive backlash from barring Trump from the ballot. However, the country might not survive the effort for another reason.

Notwithstanding the political harm to the Republican Party of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the major reason Democrats avoided a "red wave" in the 2022 election cycle was identification of the GOP with animus to democracy. This included- but was not limited to- the active effort by Trump, and support of his allies in his Party, to overturn an election.

Few Republican politicians have condemned Trump for his obsession and a CNN poll this past summer found "69% of Republicans and Republican leaners say Biden's win was not legitimate."

Tens of millions of Republicans already believed Joe Biden is President only because of a rigged election. In stepped two conservative law professors, later a conservative former federal judge and liberal law professor to prove them right.

Oh, of course without this initiative most Republicans and GOP-leaning independents still would believe that the election was fishy, if not fraudulent. Yet now, oxygen has been added to the fire of their disbelief and anger. 

For nearly three years, Democrats, never Trump Republicans, and some moderates and centrists have been denouncing the specious claims of the ex-President and the Party which emboldens and enables him, and which refuses to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.   The loser in 2020, who is insistent that he won, has strongly signaled that he won't accept the results of the next presidential election if and when he loses.  Then, and probably during the campaign, he will wail that the process is "rigged."  

If the Trump disqualification drive gains steam, the ex-President won't have to wait to complain about a rigged election. If he is nominated, the claim will drive Republicans and GOP-leaning independents to the polls to vote their displeasure. And if he loses the nomination to another Republican, the claim will drive Republicans and GOP-leaning independents to the polls to vote their displeasure, in presidential balloting and down-ballot. 

Good luck to Democrats asserting that only Republicans are out to savage democracy. Nothing else could facilitate a more effective GOTV nomination and it would make anyone a heavy favorite over the Democratic nominee.

The Democrats behind this drive are encouraging political suicide. For the Never Trump Republicans, it's brilliant strategy.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Far Beyond Civil War Denial

If a Democratic Super PAC or a Republican opponent wanted a defining moment for Nikki Haley's candidacy- or even for Nikki Haley herself, it may have come Wednesday night at a town hall event in Berlin, New Hampshire.

The former governor and UN ambassador was asked "What do you think was the cause of the Civil War?" At the tail end of the video below, Jennifer Palmieri on Morning Joe can be heard remarking "This could have been a great moment for Nikki Haley for her to say like "I came from the south, this is what have learned,' and instead it is this panic, "what do you want me to say about slavery?"

Willie Geist responded "yeh, it is that line line 'what do you want me to say about slavery,' at worst sort of defiant, that she was going to refuse to say something there." Haley's apparent moment of indecisiveness arose when

“I mean, I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do,” Haley had said Wednesday in a visit to Berlin — the first of five events in the Granite State as she attempts to close the gap with Republican front-runner Donald Trump ahead of next month’s primary.

The former South Carolina governor then asked the voter who had asked her about the Civil War what he thought the cause was, to which the voter responded, “I’m not running for president.”

“I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” Haley added. “I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people,” she added.

The voter criticized her for not mentioning slavery in her answer. “In the year 2023, it’s astonishing to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word slavery,” the voter said.

“What do you want me to say about slavery?” Haley asked.

One may be moved to say "whatever it is you actually believe." But she did say something significant, and it was worse: On a local New Hampshire radio show Thursday morning, Haley told host Jack Heath

I  mean, of course the Civil War was about slavery. But what’s the lesson in all of that? That we need to make sure that every person has freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do and be anything they want to be without anyone or government getting in the way. That was the goal of what that was at. Yes, I know it was about slavery. I’m from the South, of course I know it’s about slavery.

So she knows it was about slavery, with the lesson "that we need to make sure that every person has freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do and be anything they want to be without anyone or government getting in the way."

The Civil war was not about freedom of speech or of religion unless Haley is equating the right to hold slaves with the First Amendment. More relevantly, the candidate stressed the "freedom to do and be anything they want to be without anyone in government getting in the way."

If the media and politicians can surmount the controversy over the cause of the Civil War, they might notice that Haley was arguing that the war was fought over an individual's desire to act "without anyone in government getting in the way."

Ironically, Haley is right. In an important sense, the Civil War was fought over the privilege of behaving as the slaveholder wished without government getting in the way.  Cotton and tobacco were king in the south and profits for plantation owners would be enhanced if workers were slaves and not employees paid a wage.  Southern states believed the federal government was going to block expansion of slavery into new states and eventually abolish it. That would be the federal government denying "every person" the "freedom to do and be anything they want to be without anyone or government getting in the way."

Southern states were determined not to let northerners and their government curb their freedom to do as they wish. At that time, the freedom was to own other human beings but, as Haley is well aware, that freedom now is less odious and far more subtle. The "freedom" touted by the candidate includes limiting federal employees to five years at their job which, as David Corn recognizes

would seem to cover TSA officials, federal law enforcement officials, intelligence analysts, food and drug safety officials, National Institues of Health research supervisors, counterterrorism experts, counterintelligence officers, workplace safety regulators, financial regulators, public health officials, border security officials, IRS tax collectors, trade officials, climate change negotiators, and you can fill in the rest.

Of course, someone would run the federal government, which very likely would be lobbyists and the interests, especially powerful corporations, which employ them. That would be consistent with Haley's enthusiasm for increasing oil and gas drilling, cutting income taxes for the wealthy and others, and undermining- uh, er, "reforming"- Social Security and Medicare.

 It's no surprise, then, that as Tim Scott's presidential campaign was imploding, Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity threw its endorsement- with all the resources it can muster- behind Haley's presidential effort. Certainly, Americans for Prosperity would not want its presidential choice to "government getting in the way" of it's interest in the wealthy and corporations. That would prove to be a pesky problem, much as the federal government 150+ years ago would not reinforce the institution of slavery.

Nikki Haley's remark about slavery on Wednesday evening was no accident. It may have been a nod and a wink to her corporate donors or it may have reflected sincere views (presuming she has any) about the role of government in society. Either way, she pointed to the likely role of any Haley Administration in shunning the interests of all but the most powerful Americans.


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Reality, Acknowledged

It was in June of 2014, during the No Drama Obama period, that the piece "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates appeared in The Atlantic. Reparations arose as an issue almost nine years later with a decision by the College Board pertaining to its AP African American studies course. At that time, conservative scholar and author Thomas Sowell presented about reparations an argument which would also prove relevant to the war precipitated by Hamas several months later. In this interview (as seen in at 2:28 of the video below) Sowell contended

Because the number of whites, for example, who were enslaved in north Africa by the Barbary pirates exceeded the number of Africans enslaved in the United states and in the American colonies before that- put together. But nobody is going to north Africa to ask for reparations because nobody is going to be fool enough to give it to them.

Certainly, there were more slaves in the colonies and the USA than taken by the Barbary pirates because the women who became slaves here begat more children, as did their female children. However, as Sowell presumably was maintaining, there appears to have been more white Europeans taken as slaves by North African scoundrels than black Africans taken by whites and sold into slavery in what has been referred to as "America's original sin." 

We learn from a book, described here by an Ohio journalist, that retired Ohio State University history professor Robert Davis 

devised a unique methodology to calculate the number of white Christians who were enslaved along Africa’s Barbary Coast, arriving at much higher slave population estimates than any previous studies had found.

Most other accounts of slavery along the Barbary coast didn’t try to estimate the number of slaves, or only looked at the number of slaves in particular cities, Davis said. Most previously estimated slave counts have thus tended to be in the thousands, or at most in the tens of thousands. Davis, by contrast, has calculated that between 1 million and 1.25 million European Christians were captured and forced to work in North Africa from the 16th to 18th centuries.

According to Henry Louis Gates, there were only about 388,000 black persons "shipped directly to North America." That would be roughly 388,000 too many. Though some individuals were taken because of race, others became victims on the basis of ethnicity or religion as

“Enslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland,” he said.

Pirates (called corsairs) from cities along the Barbary Coast in north Africa – cities such as Tunis and Algiers – would raid ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children. The impact of these attacks were devastating – France, England, and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. At its peak, the destruction and depopulation of some areas probably exceeded what European slavers would later inflict on the African interior.

According to Davis, the slaves in north Africa generally were treated as badly as slaves in the Americas and “slaves were still slaves, whether they are black or white, and whether they suffered in America or North Africa.”

The plight of those unlucky Europeans is rarely taught and often completely ignored. That doesn't suggest that black, or African-American, history should not be part of curricula in secondary schools and colleges across the nation. We could continue in sort of a Balkanization of western history, with the contributions and persecution of blacks, Latinos, and Asians taught, each as a unit. Or instead, we could try something radical: teaching the past completely, fully, and objectively, neither demonizing the West (as is increasingly common) nor ignoring the impact of all ethnic groups. We could call it "history."

Yet, there is another moral to the research of Davis and the (valid) insistence of Sowell that not all evil has been perpetrated by Westerners and/or whites. Note that

Although hundreds of thousands of Christian slaves were taken from Mediterranean countries, Davis noted, the effects of Muslim slave raids was felt much further away: it appears, for example, that through most of the 17th century the English lost at least 400 sailors a year to the slavers (and) between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast.

The book is called Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Had it been written 19-20 years later, "Christian" and "Muslim" likely would have been excised by the publisher. Acknowledgment of the effect of religion has been all but cancelled.

Viewing the full scope of the history of oppression, we should recognize that the problem is not one of Israel vs. Palestine or Israelis vs. Palestinians. It is not primarily ethnic, especially given that Hamas' greatest support is not from the Arab world, but from Persian Iran. Nor is it racial, especially as the racial difference between Arabs born and raised in the land of Palestine is not dramatically different than that of Jews born and raised in the land of Palestine.

Rather, this war and the ongoing unrest in the region is primarily a matter of religion. Israel, in past years often referred to as "the Jewish state of Israel," was established as a haven from oppression for Jews. And although non-Jews enjoy more rights there than do the residents of nearly all (if not all) Arab and Persian nations, it is nevertheless advantageous in Israel to be Jewish. 

Muslims vs. Jews? You don't hear that in the media, traditional or social, in this country and probably not elsewhere. The issues in this conflict and beyond thus get muddled. It becomes less so when we are reminded by the likes of Thomas Sowell that slavery has existed for several hundreds of years and in numerous continents.  It becomes clearer still when we admit that Muslim masters have existed and can be as evil as Christian ones.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Yet to All Celebrants, a Merry Christmas

In the matter of political ideology, some leaders, political or religious, are principled and others blow with the wind.

Four days after the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas upon Israeli citizens

Pope Francis, in his strongest comments since the start of the conflict in Gaza, on Wednesday called for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas militants and said Israel has a right to defend itself.

Speaking in a somber voice at the end of his weekly general audience to thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, he also expressed grave concern over Israel's siege imposed on Gaza.

"I continue to follow, with pain and apprehension, what is happening in Israel and Palestine. So many people killed, and others wounded. I pray for those families who saw a feast day turn into a day of mourning, and I ask that the hostages be immediately released," he said.

Twenty-two days later, the pontiff again called for the release of the hostages held by Hamas when he

called for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas and renewed an appeal for the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

"Let no-one abandon the possibility of stopping the weapons," he said at his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square.

"Cease-fire," he said, mentioning a recent television appeal by Father Ibrahim Faltas, one of the Vatican's representatives in the Holy Land.

He then added in his own words: "We say 'cease-fire, cease-fire.' Brothers and sisters, stop! War is always a defeat, always."

Referring to "the grave situation in Palestine and Israel," he said "in Gaza, in particular, let there be room to guarantee humanitarian aid and may the hostages be freed immediately," he said, speaking about Israeli hostages seized by Hamas on Oct. 7.

So far, so good. However, the tide has turned; public sentiment has shifted dramatically toward Hamas, as- probably not coincidentally- has someone else's.  On November 24, the Hindustan Times reported

The pope met with Jewish families whose relatives were kidnapped by Hamas, and Palestinians whose families were still in Gaza. He said to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square that he saw the suffering of both sides, saying, “This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism.”

However, the Vatican denied that the pope used the word “genocide” to describe the situation, as some Palestinians who met with him claimed.

Actually, the Vatican did not deny it because as the news outlet itself noted, "Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, 'I am not aware that he used such a word.'”

That's not a denial. A denial would be more like "The pontiff said no such thing" or "that report is inaccurate." Mr. Bruni seems to be admitting that he does not have first-hand knowledge and it's very possible that he had not been told what Pope Francis said. In fact, though a refusal to respond to the accusation would be less forthcoming, it would not as obviously suggested that the Pope had said such a thing.

A couple of pro-Israel organizations were displeased but rather diplomatic. The American Jewish Committee

said in a statement on X (Formerly Twitter) that it appreciated the pope’s meeting with the hostage families but added, “Later in the day, he described the Israel-Hamas war as ‘beyond war,’ as ‘terrorism.’ Hamas’ butchering and kidnapping of civilians is terrorism. Israel’s self-defense is not. Vatican, please clarify.”

The Council of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis seemed to accuse the pope of “publicly accusing both sides of terrorism.”

It said some “Church leaders” did not condemn the Hamas attack and said they were “putting the aggressor and the attacked on the same plane in the name of a supposed impartiality.”

On the same plane? If only. Pope Francis instead had stated "This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism." He wasn't referring to terrorism by both sides; he was contending that Israel alone was committing terrorism.

But at this moment, it is Christmas Eve and it's time to be positive. Early in the war, while opponents of Hamas were largely merely expressing outrage over the brutal, homicidal attack, a US Representative from the Bronx took opponents of Israel head-on:

This was only about four weeks after the incident. However, Torres is still on-target and bold:


Merry Christmas to the brave Ritchie Torres. And may everyone who celebrates the holiday have a merry Christmas. That goes for believers as well as to atheists and agnostics, the latter evidently including a certain important figure in Vatican City.


Friday, December 22, 2023

All May Not Be Lost

The MSNBC host makes a couple of good points in the end but has no solution to the carnage in Gaza wrought by Hamas.  Failure to make a constructive recommendation is, however, extremely common.

Hayes maintains

And an atrocity like October 7th does not, cannot justify whatever comes after it, whatever the response. There is no terrorist attack, no matter how horrific, and truly October 7 was horrific, that can wash clean what we are seeing in Gaza and what we as Americans and our government are abetting. It must end, we must stop it.

He concedes "now, I will be the first to confess- the first to confess- I have no idea what to do about Hamas or about what comes next."  However, the Washington Post's David Ignatius has an idea about what might come next, perhaps the only viable solution.

One problem that hasn’t been solved — indeed, it hasn’t even been discussed in detail — is the composition of the security force that would maintain order in Gaza once Israeli troops begin to pull back. Israeli commandos might stage raids back into the center of Gaza when they receive intelligence about high-value targets. But that wouldn’t protect Palestinian civilians from gangs and looters who are already filling the security vacuum.

The security force, initially, might be composed primarily of Palestinians who aren’t affiliated with Hamas and are willing to cooperate with the Israeli troops still ringing the border. Ideally, this policing force would be bolstered by foreign troops, operating under a U.N. mandate. In the chaos of postwar Gaza, there will be a need for disciplined, experienced troops whose rules of engagement allow them to use military power if needed.

Israel’s initial insistence that it would eliminate Hamas probably is at an inflection point, too. After more than 70 days of hard fighting, Israel estimates that it has killed about 8,500 Hamas fighters. That’s out of an initial force the CIA estimated at 20,000 to 25,000. Whatever the precise numbers, a battered Hamas will likely survive, perhaps in hiding.

If there is eventually to be a Palestinian state, influential Arab countries in the region must step up and assume some responsibility for a just outcome. Ignatius continues

Over the longer term, when “the day after” finally arrives, U.S. and Israeli officials are both hoping that Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, can play a key role — providing money, leadership and legitimacy for the Gaza reconstruction effort.

Both countries have reasons to help midwife a reborn Gaza: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often known as MBS, has been seeking an opportunity to show visionary leadership in the Arab world. Normalizing relations with Israel and, at the same time, championing a well-governed Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be visionary, indeed. One official hopes MBS will add Gaza to his Vision 2030 agenda.

The UAE would bring special skills to the table, as well. As the earliest Arab country to embrace the Abraham Accords, it’s trusted by Israelis. UAE companies such as Emaar have experience managing vast the construction projects that Gaza will require. And the UAE for more than 10 years has sheltered Muhammad Dahlan, a Palestinian wheeler-dealer who was the dominant political power in Gaza until the PA was displaced by Hamas in 2006.

Or powerful nations such as the USA can throw up their hands and leave the region to sadistic, fundamentalist Islamic terrorists such as Islamic Jihad or Hamas. Israel probably eventually would be destroyed but strife in the region would continue with Palestinian Arabs forever without a homeland.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Blood of Our Ancestors

The 45th and possible 47th President of the United States of America:

You know, when they let, I think the real number is like 15, 16 million people into our country, when they do that, we got a lot of work to do.  They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done. They’ve poisoned ... mental institutions and prisons all over the world. Not just in South America. Not just in the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world they’re coming into our country. From Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They’re pouring into our country. Nobody’s even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous.

Mehdi Hasan asks the conventional rhetorical question.

Trump contends there are "like 15, 16 million people into our country, when they do that, we got a lot of work to do. They're poisoning the blood of our country." Representative Malliotakis said "He didn't say the word 'immigrants.' I think he was talking about the Democratic policies." 

Unless the ex-President meant that there are approximately 14 or 16 million Democrats "pouring into our country "from Africa, from Asia, all over the world," he was talking about immigrants.

Nonetheless, I'd ask a different question than would Hasan. We have to accept the possibility that these folks sleep well at night, either because they lack a conscience or because they actually agree with Mr. Trump. Perhaps the better question, asked rhetorically or not, would beg an explanation as to the reason such Republicans are unable or unwilling to defend the remarks they prefer to pretend the former President did not make.

They would not have to defend the racial aspect- "blood"- of the comment. If they want to restrict dramatically the flow of migrants to the USA, they could make the argument. But they won't. Karen Finney, of whom I'm no fan, has an interesting theory which might explain their reticence when in response to Hasan, she maintains "Trump's comments are as much about interracial/bi-racial Americans as they are about immigrants. The 'poisoning the blood' rhetoric akin to 'one drop' laws in the US. This is about a much bigger version of who is American."

Technically, she is wrong, but only technically. Trump was talking about immigrants, and only immigrants and reflects the perspective of many voters. While his words and meaning are hateful and bigoted, they make sense to a lot of people. 

Nonetheless (as Finney recognizes), when Trump speaks of "blood," he is not speaking of the "blood" of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Americans of Latin descent. Were he doing so, there would be no "blood" to be poisoned- it already be "poisoned," the result of sexual relations among people of different national and racial backgrounds.

Thus, when Donald Trump was speaking of "the blood of our country," he was referring to the blood of white Americans. Finney's critique is insightful insofar as she was foreseeing a slippery slop, unconsciously harkening back to Reverend Martin Niemoller. The Lutheran minister, at first a right-winger, then a critic of Adolph Hitler, after the Second World War eloquently powerfully admitted

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Actor Ronald Reagan was a fake and bad President with soaring rhetoric. So he understood what even Republicans once did, that "you can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American." Here, it has been not who our parents or grandparents were, but who we are, or striving to become.

But Donald Trump's acolytes, including supposed rivals Ramaswamy, DeSantis, and Haley, are in too deep. Intimidated by, or in support of, the Republican Party's leading presidential candidate, they are unable to make an argument in favor of democratic principles, institutional mores, or American values. Their silence speaks loudly. Commitment to what has made America America has given way to accepting someone who wants to decide who gets to stay and who gets shut out based upon the supposed blood of their ancestors.

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Republican Candidate Silently Approving of Racism

On CBS; Face the Nation on Sunday, Chris Christie reiterated his view that Nikki Haley is not a serious candidate for the presidency because she has said that Donald J. Trump is fit to return to the office. The former New Jersey governor stated

... in the end, look, Governor Haley got an endorsement this week that got her a lot of free media publicity, but it doesn't change one simple fact. She won't answer questions about Donald Trump. In fact, you know, she said just this week that he's fit to be president. This is a guy who last night in New Hampshire, used Vladimir Putin as a character witness for the decaying Democracy in America. A Vladimir Putin is an expert in democracy and someone who says that is fit to be President United State? It's- it's ridiculous.

However, Christie went a little further, both in questioning Haley's motives and in making a further case against the leading GOP contender. He charged

Once she hasn't ruled out being his vice president, I don't think you could take her as a serious contender against him. Rod DeSantis and I have both ruled out accepting the vice presidency from Donald Trump. Nikki Haley has not. That's why she's not saying strong things against Donald Trump. Why she's saying he's fit to be president of the United States. I mean, the fact that if you watch that speech last night, where he says that immigrants from Asia, Africa and South America are poisoning the blood of America, I don't know how you could take someone like that and say that they're fit to be president of the United States.

Christie was referring to the remark in a campaign speech in New Hampshire Saturday when Trump charged 

They're poisoning the blood of our country. Not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world they are coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They're pouring into our country, nobody's even looking at them.


In a video from October, the candidate who longs to be an authoritarian referred to immigration as "poisoning the blood of our country." He repeated the remark last week because the earlier one received little attention. In so doing, he has ratcheted up his rhetoric- and not only because it borrows from Adolph Hitler.


A week after being inaugurated as President, Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries. That was blocked in court and was replaced by another executive order, which also was blocked. A third added North Korea, which has relatively few Muslims, and visa restrictions later were extended to six other countries, at least two of which are not majority-Muslim.

This was insufficiently comprehensive to fit the definition of a "Muslim ban"- as it was derided by the left and centrists- but it emphasized blocking from immigration individuals of that religion. The President's critics assailed the policy for being anti-Muslim and even "racist."

We didn't know it at the time but those were the good-old days, when Trump singled out persons because of their beliefs and not their genome or other immutable characteristics- their "blood."

As of this moment, Nikki Haley has not responded to Donald Trump's blood remark. At the fourth Republican debate, she gave the leading candidate the thumbs up, stating "I think he was the right President at the right time." She added "it's just I don't think he's the right person to be President," presumably because she believes she is the right person. Having not ruled out being his running mate, Haley appears ready to assist Trump in his plans for America and in return, Trump has not criticized the former South Carolina governor.

Christie may eventually drop out of the race and endorse Haley to prevent the GOP from nominating Trump. But at this point, he has the two of them dead to rights, and one seems eager to be an accessory to autocracy and racism.


Saturday, December 16, 2023

GOP Profiles in Cowardice

Texas law bans abortion after detection of fetal cardiac activity, generally around the sixth week of pregnancy. Katie Cox, suffering from the deadly genetic condition Trisomy 18 ("Edwards Syndrome"), which "her doctors say threatens" her future fertility and even her life. Cox had filed a lawsuit to end the pregnancy and left the state. It was a good move because the Texas Supreme Court, siding with Attorney General Ken Paxton, ruled against her.  

The case has produced a display of cowardice, and something beyond cowardice. First up: cowardice:

Next up: cowardice that exceeds all cowardice.


Haley is contending

We have to humanize the situation and deal with it with compassion. I think that Texas should go back and have their medical board deal with this and say how should we deal with this. I think every state should do this.

Even Chris Christie (Chris Christie!) was having none of this, remarking

“I think it’s really, really difficult for me to understand why Gov. Haley won’t answer that question, why she says things like, ‘We should be compassionate,’” he told reporters Wednesday. “What the hell does that mean? Are you for it or against it?”

Christie said it’s “not pro-life to prevent a woman from ending a pregnancy which is doomed to end in death of her child and may risk her own health.” He emphasized that he would not enact a federal abortion ban and would instead leave it to voters in the states.

It's difficult to make the failed former governor of New Jersey appear bold but we live in an age in which the leading advocate for democracy among politicians is- wait for it- the daughter of Dick Cheney.

Of course, Christie is wrong about leaving reproductive freedom up to the states. Legislation is needed to codify Roe v. Wade or to establish a national right to terminate pregnancy through the first two trimesters without exception. Nonetheless, he was right to call out Haley.

But Democrats had a responsibility to their voters and to the country to respond aggressively on this situation.  In the wake of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, the right to choose is popular among the American people, who have a compassionate side. Even heartless Haley invoked the need to be compassionate while nonetheless refusing to defend a pregnant woman whose health was endangered by continuation of an unwanted pregnancy.

Less cowardly than unimaginative was President Biden, who should have sent Air Force One to Texas to pick up Katie Cox and fly her to state in which she could have safely procured an abortion without controversy. That simultaneously would have put the Administration on the side of reproductive freedom, women, compassion, and strength of conviction. 

It would have elevated a winning issue for Democrats and, if they were lucky, Republicans would have engaged on the issue and raised the stakes. Instead, individuals such as Ted Cruz can avoid the issue entirely while opportunists such as presidential candidate Nikki Haley can grandstand as "compassionate conservatives" while cruelly denying agency to women.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Mayor Apologizes (Sort of) for Actually Being Inclusive

The 1950s are calling- they want their decade back because

In what she called an "honest mistake," Boston's mayor apologized this week after an email inviting elected officials of color to a holiday event was accidentally sent to every council member, according to multiple media reports.

Mayor Michelle Wu, the city's first Asian American mayor, said the mistake was made when her aide, Denise DosSantos, sent the email to all officials instead of a select few.

It was indeed an honest mistake for the Democratic mayor, a daughter of immigrants from Taiwan, to suggest initially that council members would be welcome regardless of race, creed, or national origin. And so

"Honorable members: On behalf of Mayor Michelle Wu, I cordially invite you and a guest to the Electeds of Color Holiday Party," read the email, which was obtained by the Boston Herald.

The event for "electeds of color" reportedly took place Wednesday at the Parkman House.....

In a statement to WCVB-TV, the mayor explained the error. "I think we've all been in a position at one point where an email went out, and there was a mistake in the recipient."

Perhaps when her aide sent out the email, she forgot to add "whites need not apply." Responding to criticism

Wu added it was custom for “diverse” members of council to take turns hosting the annual party, which has taken place for years.

“I’ve been a part of a group that gathers, representing elected officials of color across all different levels of government in Massachusetts,” Wu told the outlet. “A group that has been in place for more than a decade, and the opportunity to create a space for people to celebrate and rotate who hosts.”

Holiday gatherings for all elected officials are also planned, Wu said, adding she “looked forward to celebrating with everyone at the holiday parties that we have besides this one, as well.”

It's a safe bet that none of the gatherings will be advertised for "elected white officials" (who comprise 7 of the 13 members) or "elected officials of whiteness." That's a good thing- which, in the world of Michelle Wu, cannot be assumed to be widely understood.

Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision of the US Supreme Court, "White Citizens' Councils" sprung up throughout the southeastern USA. Spoiler alert: they were not established to facilitate integration nor to eradicate discrimination. On a positive note, there is no record of leaders arguing  their cause was legitimate because of the existence of other groups such as the NAACP.

One black city councilor, Brian Worrell, told the Boston Herald "We make space and spaces for all kinds of specific groups in the city and city government. This is no different, and the Elected Officials of Color has been around for more than a decade."

In its 3+ iterations, the Ku Klux Klan has been around for well over a century. The KKK is evil, of course- but that's the point. Having survived does not necessarily lend legitimacy to a group. The Elected Officials of Color presumably has a right to exist and to assemble peacefully, though "White Elected Officials" would prove to be far more than controversial.

Nonetheless, the invitation was extended by the chief executive of a city, an individual elected to represent everyone no matter the constituent's race, color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. It was an invitation to a segregated event, in which no whites need apply. 

We thought- or at least hoped- that we had put the days of racial discrimination behind us. However, bigotry and resultant discrimination have grown along with the adoption of the principles and policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It turns out that "inclusion" means inclusion for our group, not for yours. The damage to the country, and to the party of Mayor Wu, beckons.


Clear, Present, and Ignored Danger

As President, Gerald R. Ford did the near impossible- he liberated Poland. Or if you prefer, he was a quarter century ahead of his time. At the second presidential debate in 1976, with incumbent Gerald Ford in his bid for a full term gaining on challenger Jimmy Carter

Ford was asked about the 1975 Helsinki Accords, an attempt to improve relations between the Communist Eastern Bloc and the Western democracies that was unpopular with many Americans of Eastern European descent.

What Ford meant to say: We don’t officially accept or diplomatically recognize Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

What Ford actually said: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under the Ford administration.’’

Evidently, the awkward, but tactically useful, term "misspoke" was not yet in vogue because

The questioner, Max Frankel of The New York Times, appeared unable to believe his ears. He gave Ford a chance to reverse himself: "Did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence?"

Ford dug in deeper. "I don't believe that the Romanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union."

Oh, dear. By the time the news sunk into voters' consciousness the next day, it was clear that Mr. Ford had made a terrible mistake. It was a time before so much information and misinformation was available on social media and one major gaffe could have a determining impact on an election.

In September of 1974, President Ford had made the decision, a major error both in policy and politics, to pardon former President Richard Nixon. Then debating Jimmy Carter, he liberated Poland prematurely and further sowed the seeds of his defeat in November of 1976..

President Biden is particularly prone to similar unforced errors, such as when

visiting a wind tower producer in Colorado on November 29, Biden appeared to confuse Chinese President Xi Jinping with Xiaoping, who ruled the country between 1978 and 1989.

He said: "I've said this to Deng Xiaoping in the Himalayas, and I've said this to every world leader: It's never, never, never been a good bet to bet against the American people." According to The South China Morning Post, the White House transcript was later edited to Xi Jinping, but this didn't stop the original footage being widely shared on Chinese social media.

No one cares about what the President calls the prime Butcher of Beijing or with whom Joe Biden confuses him. However, at an event at the White House on December 11 celebrating Chanukah

Addressing attendees Biden said: "But we know this year's Hanukkah's different. It's been 65 years since the deadliest day of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. 65 years." Biden appeared to be trying to say it was 65 days since the attack, which would have been accurate.

The president went on to make clear he had been referring to Hamas' mass assault on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, which killed 1,200 people and saw another 240 taken to Gaza as hostages. He continued: "After October 7, my father, a father, returned to his kibbutz to salvage what was left of his home. What was left was rubble and ruin."

Joe Biden's father has been deceased for over twenty years. And mistaking 65 days for 65 years- twice- is the kind of material late-night comedians would kill for. 

Joe Biden's re-election prospects are not only imperiled, but are gradually becoming a longshot. However,  

Michael Dukakis, a qualified and decent individual (already a problem there) was harmed by the silly photo of him riding around in a tank during the 1988 presidential campaign. When minor, superficial incidents occur during debate, they may have an even greater effect on elections. Gerald Ford inexplicably denying Soviet domination of Eastern Europe;  incumbent President George HW Bush "glancing impatiently at his watch" in 1992; the sighs, interpreted as "petulant," of Al Gore in 2000; Richard Nixon's 5 o'clock shadow in 1960.

The same fate may befall President Biden. Nonetheless, a clearly pleased veteran Democratic strategist, Karen Finney, has remarked “When you had people who were trying to test the waters” for a presidential bid, “the party rose up and made it clear to those individuals — who were mostly white men — that to disrespect the vice president would not be well received by women and people of color within the party. They got a little bit of a smack in the face.”

That was not only a statement- it was also a warning. Joe Biden is liable to say something absurd, as he did a few days ago, and be forever ridiculed by Republican politicians, comedians, pundits, social media “influencers,” even legitimate journalists, and lose the next presidential election decisively. But not to worry: at least “women and people of color within the party” will have the satisfaction of knowing they were not disrespected en route to Donald Trump becoming the 47th President of the United States of America.


Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Speech, Not Violence

With her avid, even emotional, interrogation of the presidents of MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania, it was easy to mistake US Representative Elise Stefanik for an ardent foe of anti-Semitism. However


In May of 2022, Annie Karni of The New York Times wrote

Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House official who now hosts an influential podcast on the right, said Ms. Stefanik could not care less about criticism from the left, using an expletive for emphasis.

What keeps her up at night, Mr. Bannon said, is any threat from the right.

“She’s in a competition right now with Representative Jim Banks about who is going farther right,” he said, referring to the Indiana Republican and chairman of the Republican Study Committee, who has also refashioned himself from a movement conservative into a Trump acolyte as he seeks to rise in power in Washington.

Some of Ms. Stefanik’s recent moves, people close to her said, appeared to be motivated by her internal competition with Mr. Banks.

Attacking top leaders of prominent institutions of higher learning can only ingratiate Stefanik with the hard right she has been courting, as well as with the disgraced ex-President whom she prays selects her as a running mate.  

Yet the cause of ending- or of even examining- the culture and circumstances on college campuses which have led to the toleration of anti-Semitism which appeared to enervate Stefanski was not well served by her performance in committee.  

In July of 2017, in response to a movement which has only grown since, social psychologist Jonathan Rauch and FIRE president and CEO Greg Lukianoff noted

Aggressive and even violent protests have erupted at some of the country’s most progressive schools, such as Berkeley, Middlebury College, and Evergreen State College. Are these schools brutal and toxic environments for members of various identity groups? Or has a set of new ideas on campus taught students to see oppression and violence wherever they look? If students are repeatedly told that numerical disparities are proof of systemic discrimination, and a clumsy or insensitive question is an act of aggression (a “microaggression”), and words are sometimes acts of violence that will shorten your life, then it begins to make sense that they would worry about their safety, chronically, even within some of America’s most welcoming and protective institutions.

One of the ideas which concerned Rauch and Lukianoff may have been, presumably inadvertently, promoted by Stefanik's condemnation of calls on campuses for "genocide" which have never been specifically made. They note

Of all the ideas percolating on college campuses these days, the most dangerous one might be that speech is sometimes violence. We’re not talking about verbal threats of violence, which are used to coerce and intimidate, and which are illegal and not protected by the First Amendment. We’re talking about speech that is deemed by members of an identity group to be critical of the group, or speech that is otherwise upsetting to members of the group. This is the kind of speech that many students today refer to as a form of violence.

They explain that "the idea that speech is violence is so dangerous" because 

It tells the members of a generation already beset by anxiety and depression that the world is a far more violent and threatening place than it really is. It tells them that words, ideas, and speakers can literally kill them. Even worse: At a time of rapidly rising political polarization in America, it helps a small subset of that generation justify political violence.

Stefanik might have assisted the consideration of speech codes had she been intellectually honest. Rather than condemning calls for genocide- which have largely, if not completely, been absent- she could have invoked the danger inherent in the common chant of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," a call for the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel.

But she did not. Similarly, in covering the testimony of the three college presidents, the media has obsessed over how badly the college presidents did at what the news media implicitly views as a performance, a failed one. Instead, newspersons should have focused on the controversial and debatable issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and especially upon the harmful impulse of equating speech with violence. It turns out that neither they nor Representative Elise Stefanik was interested in shedding light on a very important topic.

Why This Comment?

Who's he talking about? Joe Scarborough wisely and very courageously asserts .... Again, a good question to ask about what he said in a...