A MOUNTAIN OF MAYBES

We don’t want to go overboard here today, but the past week has brought to light some evidence of improving fortunes for the nation.

It well may be that Diogenes can put down his lamp and rest for a while.  Senator-elect Doug Jones from Alabama showed us how the bill could be filled.   His “victory” speech last Tuesday produced not only evidence of a sound, reasonable, accomplished and modest man, but of the goodness that can flow to him if he stays the course: a great-looking family, the affection of his peers, a sense of his own place in the greater US scheme of things, a man who has earned the trust of citizens black and white.

Almost better than all these blessings is his sense of fearlessness based on his sense of righteousness.  We do not mean in a fundamentally religious fashion.  We mean he has learned life’s lessons, stuck by them, been unafraid to use them, and has brought down giants with them.   After months of despair and insecurity, those who stayed up to watch the election returns – in spite of the truly rotten behavior of his opponent – were able to turn out their bedside lamps with smiles on their faces and hopes in their hearts.

It well may be that the election in Alabama produced a prototype of the kind of forces we need to get out  from under the proto-fascism of Mr. Trump and his cronies.   This new force is comprised of differing and different components, some not all that comfortable yet with each other.   A combination of determined, stubborn believers – the state’s Afro-Americans – tied to the old-fashioned beliefs about relationships between men and women – the returns showed nearly a third of Jones’ supporters were women – mixed in with again nearly a third of southern white liberals of both parties held ”it” together to achieve a goal so many doubted.

Is it possible that this cauldron of righteous spirits could be reassembled to fight for a fairer tax bill?  After all, Alabama was not their first proving ground.  Hardly daring to hope, they fought to save the nation from healthcare changes that threatened to not only impoverish citizens but also threatened the very kinds of help people need to stay alive.

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ONE OF THE WORST…

… …weeks experienced by the entire world is ending.  We don’t have a lot of hope for the one beginning Sunday/Monday.  The best we can report is that, as far as we know, there is no bubonic plague sweeping any portion of the civilized world.

Just Donald Trump.  Hurricanes and floods.  Earthquakes.  Nuclear gamesmanship.  Ethnic cleansing.  Gigantic grass fires on three continents.

Anyone with electricity, cell phones, or basic literacy skills, by now, regardless of the cause, has to see that the world’s climate is changing.   Even Secretary Pruitt.  No discussion is needed.

Anyone even with an impaired historical memory has to realize that Mr. Trump’s behavior and words are 99 percent beyond any pale we can remember.   His promise to “let us know” how he decides upon re-certifying the Iran nuclear agreement really puts a cap on his demonstrable attitudes towards the citizens of the United States.  He doesn’t trust us.  He doesn’t like us.  He thinks we are child-like in our realization of his importance and power.   “Only I can…” is actually the disease from which he, and we, are suffering.

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HIGHWAY REST STOP

As Americans, we are often told how short our attention span is.

Accept or deny it, sometimes we do need to get off the speedway.  This is as good a time as any.

Dear One seems to be resting between spasms of energy.  This is a great relief to us all.

True enough we still have Russia, and Junior, Jared and Ivanka, Ukraine, Belarus, sub-saharan African famine,  Asia’s Dear Leader flexing, Mitch and Paul, Chuck and Nancy, Harvey and Irma, Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing, football, Hillary and Comey, Ken Burns, and Sunday’s Emmys.

But Congress hasn’t remounted since its vacation.   The Market, for unknown reasons, is holding.  And today’s terrorists in London seem not ready for primetime.

Big breath.

Some things, however, are still with us.    Here’s one: ADVERTISING.

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EYE ON THE PRIZE

 

A strange phenomenon has occurred.  As Harvey poured down on Texas, people began to wonder when Mr. Trump would arrive for his photo ops.  Actually, it seemed to many more or less natural that the President, as all others of late, should make a condolence appearance.   He wasn’t expected to really do anything but show the flag.

The remarkable idea that Trump could even be considered in a long line of presidents doing this kind of drop-in duty was staggering. Had he somehow –when no one was looking – learned something?  Did we finally, actually, really have a President?  What could be more normal?

It wasn’t empathy, exactly, that he had learned about.  It was instead yet another role he played, keeping his Kingdom calm while all along continuing to move successfully forward on his Kingship quest.  The flight of Air Force One was simply another bit of stage-managing to keep the country from thinking about his real agenda: becoming – quietly and cleverly – KING.   This is not easy insofar as his attachments to Russia are under constant investigation.

There is a tiny, 126 page book we want to recommend.  ON TYRANNY, by Timothy Snyder.  Snyder is an historian at Yale who has wide and deep experience of Eastern Europe, the rise and fall of both democracies and totalitarian regimes. He writes simply and eloquently, not asking more of his readers’ lives than they could be expected rightfully to contribute.  And he has the great ability to ponder the past and learn from it, experience the present and learn from that, and foresee the future and learn from that!  Better, the text is small enough to slip into your back pocket for reading and rereading throughout the day.

Enough Americans of all political persuasions are concerned with the future, the present, and Mr. Trump to have made ON TYRANNY a best-seller over the summer, yours for only $7.99 at your local bookstore, at something less via Amazon.

And the book’s timing is perfection, for those who have all along seen through the machinations of the Donald, and especially for those who are beginning to slide off the decks of his freshly painted but already dented warship.

Subtitled “Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” Snyder explains, warns, and forearms how easy and even reasonable the drift towards fascism is.  Or could be.

The most trenchant of his parables is Chapter 6: “Be Wary of Paramilitaries.”

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QUICKSAND

 

The “swamp” has many strata.

The D.C. of old was jammed with bright, young, idealistic kids who worked for not much money but worked together, having fun, expanding their horizons.  Hope lived in prospects for the future and for advancement.   People believed they might make a difference some day to the wealth, power, strength and sensibility of our nation.

These kids grew into their thirties, undeterred by the occasional setback.  There was the world to control, conquer, civilize and improve.   Peace was to be kept at nearly any cost.  Health was to be fostered, and antibodies, vaccinations, food and water were to be the international coin.   Brain power and wisdom began to be accumulated.    Achievements began to seem to be possible.

In their forties and early fifties, this happy band –now accompanied by reasonable and far-reaching results both domestically and internationally – settled into roles for which they would be remembered and revered.   True enough, they were not (most of them) making enormous money, but the satisfaction was great, the sense of having had hands in progress and improvement – in guiding the world to a better place – grew.

We know, because we started there.

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NOT HELPFUL

 

It is disappointing to us to have to admit that despite the integrity and believability of James Comey this week before the Senate, in the end (as far as we know: there was a second, classified debriefing before the same committee later the same day) no puzzles were solved, no “smoking gun” found, no straight- forward instance where the behavior of the president was beyond dispute.

Millions of people watched the hearing on television or other devices.  It is fair, we think, to imagine that at least half the audience was inclined to will Comey’s recitation into something greater than it was.  Conversely, Mr. Trump’s well-known base was pulling in the other direction, hoping against hope that Comey would stumble and reveal himself to be a partisan warrior with a personal agenda.

Expectations did not stop there.  From Mr. Comey himself, as well as from several questioning Senate members, what we think of as unrealistic reliance on the wisdom and insights to come from Robert Mueller as he tries to untangle constricting cords in this governmental Gordian knot may be wishfully misplaced.   Very few mortals have ever carried such a heavy load of encouragement and disbelief simultaneously.

Regardless of what Mr. Mueller turns up and shares with the American people, a conspiracy or lack thereof, the arguments over the president’s behavior are going to continue for years, just as suspicion and doubt “clouded” the report from the blue ribbon panel investigating the assassination of John Kennedy.

The partisan divisions of the past few years throughout the country do not allow for calm reflection.   With a president fostering festering discontent with all things governmental, judicial, Congressional, we do not see a moment to come when citizens are allowed respite from doubt, anger, frustration, and violence.

Worse, the president seems determined to continue in ignorance of common civilities and decencies.  Just as he is equally determined to believe that world history began with his inauguration.   Not for him a few moments each day reading about the past and the lessons it has to teach us all.   And forget about sitting with counsel or his cabinet, or “his” generals, even for fifteen minutes a day to learn about what preceded his reign, and what is likely to follow it.   After all, ignorance got him where he is today.  He is reliant on ignorance, confident in believing that no one in America knows anything more than what he, the King, dictates.

Which, of course, goes a long way to understanding the wreckage Mr. Trump produces when travelling or tweeting.  Not to mention his preference for “rallies” and continued campaign commercials that – as during the campaign – are imprecise, full of unfulfillable promises, personal attacks on opponents or disbelievers.   Hints of good times to come, or – as is his wont – good times from the past to which he purportedly yearns to return – are as precise as his limited experience of the world allows.  The plain fact of the matter is that he doesn’t give a damn about other people’s pain, troubles, poverty.   This allows him free rein to exercise what he envisions as his calling:  “Only I can fix it.”   Not for him the value of a cabinet with experience and knowledge.   In the Executive Branch these days there is only one executive, and the faster we all understand that, the easier it will be for us to accommodate ourselves to his world vision.   Whatever that may be.

The press is not helping.   The take-home from this week’s hearings seems to be that Comey is the first man in world history to announce to one and all that the president of the United States lies.   Yet the press have religiously reported every instance of Trump’s myth-making from his descent on that golden escalator onwards.  Having established that we have a leader who reflexively lies as easily as he breathes, what more can it tell us?  It can, has done, and will continue to breathlessly tell us how he has lied, what he doesn’t know, what he cannot seem to understand.  But little of this is new or even newsworthy.

As for Mr. Trump’s ”party,” it seems content to smile and nod and cluck just bit because all this presidential stuff is so new to Mr. Trump that he hasn’t yet had time to learn the ins and outs of D.C. or even the broader world.  Which would seem to indicate that Republicans too think of him as encapsulated in his own ego and image.   (Once again we see the Donald as practicing daily before his mirror.)

There is a contrast between Mr. Comey and his former boss.   Comey ran the FBI as though the US were still flawless in its depiction of democracy and rule of law.   Mr. Trump is barely conversant with the simple idea – although complex in daily exercise – that the US is a nation of laws and that the country is not a business he can bankrupt as he chooses.   One man has a claim to protecting the nation from all dangers; the other invites intervention by our enemies.

Although we think these differences are clear and obvious, millions disagree.   Which is why continued prospecting by Mr. Mueller, the Senate and the House, may be destined to return bags of pyrites.  The glitter is in the eye of the beholder.  Without an assayer of Biblical standards, this may come in the end to disappoint millions.  Among that number, we cannot count Donald Trump.

INEXPERIENCE, GREED, TREASON

One of the problems we in America have just now is what we don’t know.  Fake news?  Real news?  Experience?  Make-believe?  Altruism?  Pocket-lining?

With nearly half-a-dozen investigations afoot – in Congress, in the office of the Special Counsel, in the Washington Post and The New York Times – wires are being crossed and what’s released to a pubic that cares is increasingly confusing.

Our reactions are not singular.   As each day passes with more and more “Breaking News,” anger grows, impatience, suspicion.

Regardless of whom one voted for, the results can now be seen to be, in our mind, disastrous.  Hiring a hockey rink jammed with ballet dancers – in effect, calling upon friends, neighbors, and family members – none of whom have any skating experience – is more than ridiculous.  It’s incredibly stupid.   Matching these artistic bozos with tasks to perform for the good of the public is tantamount to handing a six month old a bottle of J&B.   Balance is not improved, and knowledge is nowhere garnered.  Occasionally a good prima ballerina can be turned into a wizard on ice, but this happens so rarely we’d hardly recognize her.  It certainly isn’t happening in Washington today.

Today’s Primary Example: Jared Kushner.

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