Category Archives: In the News

Neil Gorsuch on the Administrative State

Just heard that Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed by the Senate to the ninth seat on the Supreme Court.

Will the new Justice undermine the administrative state, what I’ve called our “speaking mostly in prose?” And will he try to return us to the poetry of the past, to the Constitution, as he seeks to promote his own originalist position?

Scalia and Gorsuch

We are told that Gorsuch in respect to the Constitution is an originalist much like Antonin Scalia whom he greatly admired and whom he is replacing. The two men would do nothing that was not allowed by the historical moment, time, and spirit of the Constitution. In a more conservative court Scalia would not have permitted abortion, same sex marriage, probably not assisted suicide. Will Gorsuch be with him with similar positions?

Emily Bazelon and Eric Posner have written (see The Government Gorsuch Wants to Undo) that Gorsuch’s being on the court would be bad not only for the administrative state but even worse for the country.

“Judge Gorsuch,” they write, “embraces a judicial philosophy that would do nothing less than undermine the structure of modern government — including the rules that keep our water clean, regulate the financial markets and protect workers and consumers.”

Their words are a clear statement that the rules and regulations that we are obliged to live with, and while mostly complaining about, see them as more important than, say the much ballyhooed separation of powers, for our country’s well being. Think clean air and water, previous existing medical conditions, the safety of the work place, not to mention the rights of minorities whose presence was not even acknowledged in the Constitution or in the earlier history of the country.

In other words Gorsuch would strongly oppose the administrative state, placing himself “smack” in the company of Steve Bannon, who has called any number of times  for its “deconstruction.”

Trump of course didn’t understand what he was doing by choosing Gorsuch. And as for Gorsuch himself, one might ask if he, for all his otherwise brilliance and readiness to serve on the court, really understands the weakness of the originalist position, his own and the one he so much admired in his predecessor Antonin Scalia. In a world, our world, where change is everywhere and where evolutionary science is to be looked to for guidance, more so than tradition and yes more so than religion, stuck no less than tradition in the past, and needing desperately (think priests in the  Catholic church and terrorists in ISIS) to change.

As Judge Gorsuch himself put it in a speech last year (Summer, 2016) the Legacy of Justice Scalia, the administrative state “poses a grave threat to our values of personal liberty.” It would seem therefore that Gorsuch would go along with the House bills that would undo so many of the rules we have come to live with, rules that in most instances do not take away our personal freedoms but enable us to better enjoy them. Think environmental protection, rules of the road, the rules of our games, both road and games entirely dependent on rules and referees, as so much else in our lives. And all that has been a good thing.

Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, agreeing with Bazelon and Posner, has written  (see, Adam Liptak,  in a Times article,1/2017, In Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Echo of Scalia in Philosophy and Style,) that Judge Gorsuch’s stance on federal regulation was “extremely problematic” and “even more radical than that of Antonin Scalia —

“Not requiring courts to defer to agency expertise when an act of Congress is ambiguous,” she said, “will make it much harder for federal agencies to effectively address a wide variety of critical matters, including labor rights, consumer and financial protections, and environmental law.”

Scalia

Judge Gorsuch’s writing does differ, perhaps, from Justice Scalia’s in one major way: His tone is consistently courteous and mild, while some of Justice Scalia’s dissents were caustic and wounding. (See above, Adam Liptak.) This difference was what probably got Gorsuch through the confirmation process and the questioning by the Senators so easily.

Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation probably means that for the time being the court will return to a familiar dynamic, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate conservative, holding the decisive vote in many closely divided cases (again Adam Liptak). But most important Gorsuch’s confirmation will give added life to the originalist positions of the conservative Justices now on the Court, threatening what the more liberal and progressive courts have achieved up until now, especially if Trump goes on to choose still another originalist for a new SCOTUS vacancy.



Quora Question for Francis Fukuyama

It’s not a threat intrinsically, because I think there are successful Muslim majority countries in the world.

I don’t think there is any cultural obstacle in that regard but the problem is the reaction of the indigenous/ethnic countries in that migration. This a big tragedy of these populist demagogues that were kept under wraps after September 11th. I think George W. Bush, despite his tremendous policy mistake invading Iraq was very good on this front, he said our war is not with Islamic people, it’s with radical, violent people, these are the people we need to focus on.

This has evolved, ISIS replacing Al Qaeda and it doesn’t look like it’s going to go away, feeding the narrative on the right that it’s not just a bunch of extremists, it is an entire religion and I think there are enough opportunistic politicians who are going to repeat that and that’s the threat. This is what leads to violation of civil rights, injured communities, distrust and hatred in countries where you have larger minorities of Muslims like France and the Netherlands and they’re going to have very polarized politics for some period of time.

Francis Fukuyama 
And Fukuyama is not alone. We have any number of good and wise men and women in our Universities. Similarly we have such men and women reporting and writing commentary for the Times, the Journal, the Post and the like. Why is it that the Republican representatives in the Congress, and especially those in the House, not to mention the occupants of the Oval Office seem never to be aware of what the good and wise people among us are writing and saying? This is the great tragedy of our time, in particular of Trump Time, characterized by the shocking ignorance of our leaders.

Just the other day, March 28, the Times, as if in answer to my own thinking as well as that of probably many others, put together this piece:

“It’s all just smack talk, baby. All of it.” David Horsey,

I’ve called Trump a liar,

citing as evidence a few of his outrageous statements and tweets, Obama’s supposed wiretapping of Trump’s phones for example. But now I would revise the liar epithet changing it to smack-talking. Smack talking is Donald’s mother tongue. That’s what he has been speaking all along. Not too different from the pre-fight talk of Muhammad Ali who in the 1960s evidently released a popular full-length album consisting largely of smack or trash-talk “poetry.”

Muhammad Ali called his “poetry” collection, I Am the Greatest! And as I think about that now isn’t this exactly how Trump would come onto the stage at the presidential candidate debates, projecting himself as “the greatest?” In any case he would always give all importance, not to his ideas which I might charitably say he doesn’t have, but to his great numbers in the polls, the very sort of smack-talk he would do later during and after the presidential election, as if by his superior numbers (for the most part probably made up by himself of whole cloth) he was putting down his opponents, much as Muhammad Ali would put down his opponent by his “I’m the Greatest” trash talk prior to the fight. Of course the big difference between the two is that Muhammad was the greatest, heavyweight boxer anyway.

It was an article in the Los Angeles Times, by David Horsey (yes, that’s right, “Horsey”) entitled, Smack-talking Trump tweets his way toward legal trouble, that first got me thinking about all this. Who was the first to make the connection between Trump’s tweets and trash-talk? I didn’t and I probably should have. And it probably wasn’t Horsey no matter how well he now writes about the subject. The tweets were more smacking than lying although I didn’t see it at first.

In any case I was never comfortable with the liar moniker on Trump. Smack-talk is better. While smack-talk is all lies these lies are somehow less offensive than real lies, and we see Trump as an adept in locker room trash talk rather than a full member of any circle of conspiracy theorists including the real liars out there, and helas many of whom are within Trump’s inner circle of strategic advisors, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, the Infowars guy, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity,  Rush Limbaugh and their ilk, these people, and there are tens of thousands of them, being much more than our child-president, the greatest threat to our liberal democracy.

Trump was probably never up to the level of being a real, authentic liar. For me he doesn’t come across as an evil person, rather hugely ignorant, full of himself, impatient with others and a playground bully. He probably never saw himself, still probably doesn’t see himself, as telling lies so much as smacking down others who are his competition on the playground, be it real estate where for many years he was smacking together deals, and now in our national politics where he is at least trying to do the same thing, although so far with little success. Also I don’t think Trump ever hated Hillary, or President Obama, but saw himself as being obliged to talk smack to both of them, and thereby smack both of them down that they be no threat to him. And in these two instances, at least, he does seem to have eliminated the competition.


Here’s the Horsey article (March 13, 2017) I refer to without the author’s illustrations. For that I’d encourage you to follow the link.


Our put-upon president has spent a lifetime talking smack, like a street kid in a pickup basketball game in Queens. Insults and demeaning remarks are just part of the game and part of his persona. When he called Mexicans “rapists” and said “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz’s father helped kill JFK, it was all in fun, right? Who could fail to see what was really in his heart (the biggest heart anyone has ever had, by the way)?

la-bio-david-horsey
David Horsey

This is a man who built his business on boasts. Everything he did was “big league,” “huge,” “tremendous.” He never expected anyone to fact-check his endless claims that whatever he did was the best and biggest in the history of the world (or to sue him for fraud when they discovered their Trump University degree was worthless). Who knew some smarty-pants would count how many people really showed up for his inauguration, rather than taking his word for it that it was the largest crowd in history?

Poor Donald. He has now blustered his way into a job where his every comment is analyzed and picked apart as if the wrong phrase might start a war or set off an economic panic. What is he supposed to do, change his ways at age 70 just because he is president of the United States?

Apparently, the answer is yes, because not only has he gotten himself in trouble for what he says, but for the things he says that he subsequently tries to edit. The chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, have sent a letter to the White House warning the president that, every time he deletes or alters a tweet, he may be violating the Presidential Records Act. Pretty much everything a president says in public is, by law, part of the official record, even a poorly spelled, ill-conceived tweet dashed off in the wee hours of the morning.

The day Trump discovered Twitter must have been better than his wedding day (or days). Wives come and go, but tweets are endless. Finally, he had a way to share every malign observation and crackpot rumor that lodged between his ears — not just with whoever happened to be in the room, but with the whole adoring world. Obviously, it has become addicting. Asking him to stop would be like asking Winnie the Pooh to forgo honey, like asking Elvis never to move his hips, like asking a nymphomaniac to become a nun. Like a meth addict looking for the next rush, Trump cannot resist tweeting out boasts and smack talk. It seems not to matter to him that he is making trouble for himself and his administration.

Just days after giving a speech before Congress in which he inspired a tremulous hope that he might have the capacity to do more than be a caricature of the worst president imaginable, Trump sent off another early-morning tweet. This one accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of committing a major felony by wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

FBI Director James Comey quickly urged the White House to make clear that the accusation lacked any basis in fact. Instead, Trump’s minions doubled down and demanded that Congress investigate. Republicans rolled their eyes. Giddy Democrats jumped at the invitation. They knew an investigation offered two possibilities: either they would quickly expose the truth that Trump had mindlessly latched on to a fallacious rant by a right-wing talk radio performer, or they would find that there really was a wiretap — one authorized by law to follow connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers who subverted the U.S. election. For Democrats, it would be a win, one way or another.

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe took to Twitter to argue that Trump’s accusation against Obama was “an impeachable felony in reckless disregard of truth.” Nevertheless, Trump did not retract anything, though insider reports said the president was privately admitting he had taken things a step too far this time.

Sad, isn’t it? How could one impetuous tweet cause so much trouble after he had gotten away with so many others? The president must feel so misunderstood, so beset by unpoetic literalists. After all, Trump has never been especially concerned with connecting the things he says to actual facts or deeply held beliefs. It’s all just smack talk, baby. All of it.


Dolphins trick fish with mud “nets.” Trump’s advisors trick all of us with “alternative facts.”

Most of all we want to understand, but we don’t understand Donald Trump, probably never have. Will we ever? I’ve never seen a good explanation of many of the wacky, oddball and hurtful things he’s said (said and not yet done as he’s only in the second week of his presidency).

Why did he assert, was it a couple of years ago, that John McCain was not a war hero because of how he fought the war, but that he was not a war hero because he was captured. “I like,” Trump said, “people who weren’t captured.” And why was he one of the very first to join the so-called “Birther” movement? (Did he found the “movement”?) Why did he repeatedly call for the President to release his full birth certificate and then question the authenticity of the documents once he did so? Then as a presidential candidate, he declined to say the President was born in the United States — until September 16 of last year?

Crazy I thought at the time, but at the time I didn’t believe he would ever be selected as the Republican candidate, let alone ultimately elected president. Why during the campaign in response to George Stephanopoulos who had asked him what he would say to a grieving Gold Star father, did Trump respond without even a single understanding, comforting phrase, but only said in his own rough “Apprentice” language:  “I’d say, ‘we’ve had a lot of problems with radical Islamic terrorism.’”

In general our way of understanding oddball happenings is to use  a metaphor, or figure of speech, in which a word or picture, a phrase or story is applied to an object or action to which it is not ordinarily applicable, and thereby helps with our understanding. And this is the way that right now many thinkers and writers are trying to understand the president. Here are three examples:

trump-kaleiDaniel Henninger in the WSJ uses the metaphor of a kaleidoscope. The Trump kaleidoscope, he says, has at least two reflecting surfaces. One is Trump Himself, a phenomenon that changes at every turn. The other is the Trump government, which, Henninger says, is not going to break free of the American system’s more stable institutional realities and constraints. Let’s hope he’s right about that.

Then we have Michelle Goldberg of Slate Magazine, with this guest column in the NYTimes, Donald Trump, the Religious Right’s Trojan Horse.  She writes: “Once Mr. Trump seized the Republican nomination, religious conservatives realized that their only path to federal influence lay in a bargain with this profane, thrice-married Manhattan sybarite. So they got in line, ultimately proving to be Mr. Trump’s most loyal backers…. With hindsight, Mr. Trump’s libertinism made him the perfect Trojan Horse for conservative values. Because he’s such an irreligious figure, social issues barely figured in the campaign. Even as Christian conservatives put their faith in Mr. Trump, opponents of the religious right’s agenda were able to convince themselves that Mr. Trump wouldn’t enact it…. [but he did of course with the result that] The religious right has been elevated to power without having to contest its ideas in an election. Sometimes, a deal with the devil pays off, big league.”

It was Odysseus who told the Greek warriors to build a big wooden horse on wheels, big enough for a bunch of Greek soldiers to hide inside it. It was Trump himself who chose his own “wooden horse,”  the conservative Christian Mike Pence as his vice-president. And just as the Trojans paid no attention to the big wooden Horse in their midst filled with Greeks, during the campaign no one paid much attention to vice president designate Pence. I know I didn’t. And I didn’t suspect that Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he chose him.

trojhorse

When finally in Troy everyone had fallen asleep the Greek soldiers came out of the horse and proceeded to kill the men and enslave the women and children. Similarly when the election was over and Trump had won (not the popular vote, of course) the true believers , the conservative Christian born agains led by Pence came out into the open revealing their true faces, and ultimately the true fundamentalist colors of the new Trump administration.

Whatever liberal and secular remnants of previous Bush and Obama administrations still remained in Washington now found themselves no longer at home, their entry to the Oval Office blocked, and although it didn’t happen that they themselves were killed and their women and children taken back to the Red States as slaves, they understood that religious zealots were now occupying the principal seats of power in the Trump administration, having won the big battle for the country.

Following Daniel Henninger’s Kaleidoscope and Michelle Goldberg’s Trojan Horse I propose a metaphor of my own, that of the circling, hungry bottlenose dauphins (who I  trust will pardon the comparison) that, in order to catch and eat the mullet,

mullet

such as these from Tampa Bay where I live, create clouds of sand and mud that frighten and arouse the fish who then become easy prey almost seeming to fly into the mouths of the circling dauphins.


Here is the uTube video of what happens:

The video shows bottlenose dolphins in the shallow waters of Florida bay using their tails to raise a wall of mud in the water, which then acts like a net to squeeze the fish together until they are forced to jump straight into the mouths of the waiting dolphins. This is a natural phenomenon that is only found with Florida dolphins. If only the fish knew what was going on, and if only we knew what Trump was all about…
.

Whichever dolphin first figured out how to create “fish mud nets” should get a prize! Donald Trump should get a prize himself for having figured out how to create “people mud nets,” that is, mind nets where people, you and I, are caught and no longer know what is going on. Trump himself probably knew, almost from the moment he began making all those zany statements that would keep us all tied up, and most important keep his legions of followers from changing their minds, perhaps even getting in his way and blocking his otherwise clear path to the presidency.

trump-and-team

Here is the picture, in the Oval Office, of Trump and his team. There is Mike Pence, Michael Flynn, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Sean Spicer (other team members, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions are absent but very much of the same ilk). Trump is speaking on the phone with President Putin while his team looks on, waiting perhaps to seize and make their own, as the dauphin the mullet, whatever comes out from the mud net of Trump’s words.

Like Trump’s team of advisors Bottlenose dauphins are also commonly found in groups of varying sizes, as little as 2 to 15, as in the video, but also in herds of several hundred individuals. Trump’s herds now number in the millions. Will they, can they be stopped?

But the. metaphors never go far enough. What’s really happening is never fully caught by the figure. There is no kaleidoscope, no Trojan Horse, and no herd of Bottlenose dauphins that will bring us greater understanding of what is going on in the country. We do know that we now have a president who with his team is creating “mud nets” with his words to confuse us, and we really don’t know what is to come. But we suspect it won’t be good for the country. Having zealots and liars in charge is never good.

We’re only in the second week of Trump’s presidency and the pronouncements coming from Trump himself and his team have already begun to destroy the Republican Party, revealing a group of representatives in Washington without the courage to oppose their president of untruths, one after another. And much worse than destroying the Party Trump et al. are seriously weakening our liberal democracy by abandoning the secular and humanitarian vision of the Founding Fathers. For what else can one call closing the door to the world’s refugees?

What’s next? Taking down the Statue of Liberty?

Two Visions, One America?

January 20. 1993


clinton_02My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring, a spring reborn in the world’s oldest democracy that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America. When our Founders boldly declared America’s independence to the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change; not change for change’s sake but change to preserve America’s ideals: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Though we marched to the music of our time, our mission is timeless. Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.
On behalf of our Nation, I salute my predecessor, President Bush, for his half-century of service to America. And I thank the millions of men and women whose steadfastness and sacrifice triumphed over depression, fascism, and communism.
Today, a generation raised in the shadows of the cold war assumes new responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues. Raised in unrivaled prosperity, we inherit an economy that is still the world’s strongest but is weakened by business failures, stagnant wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our own people.
When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold, news traveled slowly across the land by horseback and across the ocean by boat. Now, the sights and sounds of this ceremony are broadcast instantaneously to billions around the world. Communications and commerce are global. Investment is mobile. Technology is almost magical. And ambition for a better life is now universal.
We earn our livelihood in America today in peaceful competition with people all across the Earth. Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world. And the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy. This new world has already enriched the lives of millions of Americans who are able to compete and win in it.

But when most people are working harder for less; when others cannot work at all; when the cost of health care devastates families and threatens to bankrupt our enterprises, great and small; when the fear of crime robs law-abiding citizens of their freedom; and when millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead, we have not made change our friend.
We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps, but we have not done so; instead, we have drifted.

And that drifting has eroded our resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence. Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. And we must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us. From our Revolution to the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights movement, our people have always mustered the determination to construct from these crises the pillars of our history. Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our Nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my fellow Americans, this is our time. Let us embrace it.
Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. And so today we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift, and a new season of American renewal has begun.
To renew America, we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had to do before. We must invest more in our own people, in their jobs, and in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt. And we must do so in a world in which we must compete for every opportunity. It will not be easy. It will require sacrifice, but it can be done and done fairly, not choosing sacrifice for its own sake but for our own sake. We must provide for our Nation the way a family provides for its children.
Our Founders saw themselves in the light of posterity. We can do no less. Anyone who has ever watched a child’s eyes wander into sleep knows what posterity is. Posterity is the world to come: the world for whom we hold our ideals, from whom we have borrowed our planet, and to whom we bear sacred responsibility. We must do what America does best: offer more opportunity to all and demand more responsibility from all. It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing from our Government or from each other. Let us all take more responsibility not only for ourselves and our families but for our communities and our country.
To renew America, we must revitalize our democracy. This beautiful Capital, like every capital since the dawn of civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way. Americans deserve better. And in this city today there are people who want to do better. And so I say to all of you here: Let us resolve to reform our politics so that power and privilege no longer shout down the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage so that we can feel the pain and see the promise of America. Let us resolve to make our Government a place for what Franklin Roosevelt called bold, persistent experimentation, a Government for our tomorrows, not our yesterdays.

Let us give this Capital back to the people to whom it belongs.

To renew America, we must meet challenges abroad as well as at home. There is no longer a clear division between what is foreign and what is domestic. The world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS crisis, the world arms race: they affect us all. Today, as an older order passes, the new world is more free but less stable. Communism’s collapse has called forth old animosities and new dangers. Clearly, America must continue to lead the world we did so much to make.
While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges nor fail to seize the opportunities of this new world. Together with our friends and allies, we will work to shape change, lest it engulf us. When our vital interests are challenged or the will and conscience of the international community is defied, we will act, with peaceful diplomacy whenever possible, with force when necessary. The brave Americans serving our Nation today in the Persian Gulf, in Somalia, and wherever else they stand are testament to our resolve. But our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still new in many lands. Across the world we see them embraced, and we rejoice. Our hopes, our hearts, our hands are with those on every continent who are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is America’s cause.
The American people have summoned the change we celebrate today. You have raised your voices in an unmistakable chorus. You have cast your votes in historic numbers. And you have changed the face of Congress, the Presidency, and the political process itself. Yes, you, my fellow Americans, have forced the spring. Now we must do the work the season demands. To that work I now turn with all the authority of my office. I ask the Congress to join with me. But no President, no Congress, no Government can undertake this mission alone.
My fellow Americans, you, too, must play your part in our renewal. I challenge a new generation of young Americans to a season of service: to act on your idealism by helping troubled children, keeping company with those in need, reconnecting our torn communities. There is so much to be done; enough, indeed, for millions of others who are still young in spirit to give of themselves in service, too. In serving, we recognize a simple but powerful truth: We need each other, and we must care for one another.
Today we do more than celebrate America. We rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America, an idea born in revolution and renewed through two centuries of challenge; an idea tempered by the knowledge that, but for fate, we, the fortunate, and the unfortunate might have been each other; an idea ennobled by the faith that our Nation can summon from its myriad diversity the deepest measure of unity; an idea infused with the conviction that America’s long, heroic journey must go forever upward.

And so, my fellow Americans, as we stand at the edge of the 21st century, let us begin anew with energy and hope, with faith and discipline. And let us work until our work is done. The Scripture says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” From this joyful mountaintop of celebration we hear a call to service in the valley. We have heard the trumpets. We have changed the guard. And now, each in our own way and with God’s help, we must answer the call. Thank you, and God bless you all.


January 20, 2017


tr-2-fistsChief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama,
fellow Americans, and people of the world: Thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.
We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.
Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another —

but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all change— starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
Everyone is listening to you now.
You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation— and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.
But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.
We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear — we are protected, and we will always be protected.
We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.
We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together, We will make America strong again.
We will make wealthy again.
We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again.
And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.


My Agenda for the United States, 1993

Moving books and papers around in my office, is not something I do very often. On the contrary, unlike my wife my usual stance is to let things be, let them lie, yes accumulate dust in cat hairs, no longer even know what’s there, in and at the bottom of the piles. Anyway, this time my moving of books and papers turned up a few pages of my January 1993 journal, the time of Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address, that which I preceded to read and now post below:

Journal, 1/18/1993, An Agenda for the United States.
(From the date you will note that this was just two days prior to Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address on January 20, perhaps while writing my own agenda of to do stuff I was thinking ahead to Clinton’s address.)

  • Compel (encourage strongly) the allies to start carrying their own weight. (As I reread that I wondered if the Donald had hacked my journal!)
  • Withdraw support from Israel until that country  agrees to sit down with the PLO and negotiate a real sharing of power based on the relative sizes of the Israeli and Palestinian populations. (This one, I’m sure Donald skimmed right over.)
  • Withdraw support from Kuwait until that country sets about establishing an open and democratic society, and from Egypt until that country starts addressing the plight of their large poor and jobless population.
  • Invite the Serbian leaders and their Russian friends to the U.S. for talks.
  • Invite the leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic parties and countries to a conference in New York. (Now in 2017 we’re even further from doing this!)
  • Negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein and all the other “evil” rulers in the world, seeking to influence them by bringing to light mutual advantages, as well as devising actions from which both we and they could profit. (We didn’t negotiate with Saddam, and instead drove him out of office, and with Bashar al-Assad we tried unsuccessfully to follow our own example and failed.)
  • Assume that enemies are most often people like ourselves although with different opinions and different beliefs. (Makes me realize just how far apart we, Donald and I, are.)
  • Use the “bully pulpit” to promote those things the world’s peoples have in common, —shouldn’t be hard, our being one species living on the one and the same earth and sharing similar family, community, and religious values. (Donald does like the “bully pulpit,” those gatherings he calls “rallies,” but he doesn’t have a clue as to what we all, not just his personal twitter followers, have in common.)

Now this agenda was from January of 1993 and things of course have changed much from then. But as always many more things are much the same, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things that were happening 21 years ago:

War in Abkhazia. (09-27-1993)

US and Russia sign the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. (01-03-1993)
Czechoslovakia dissolved into Czech and Slovakia. (01-01-1993)
European eliminates trade barriers and becomes a single market. (01-01-1993)

And if I were to do a similar agenda for today, January 23, 2017, I would have little to add other than a few changes to proper names, Bashar al-Assad instead of Saddam Hussein, Iran in place of Serbia, and the big guy of course, China, not even mentioned in my 93 agenda.

But as always in a kind of excruciating, painful detail things are never really the same. Up close they are different, as we are from ourselves of an earlier time, and perhaps the biggest change from then to now is that between the Russia of Boris Yeltsin, and the Russia of Vladimir Putin, the one struggling in the nineties to make Russia a more open, Western oriented democracy, and the other apparently succeeding in turning Russia back once again into an authoritarian and closed society, resembling more the USSR than the democracies of Europe and the West. And that change didn’t need to have happened. Without a doubt our world would have been a much happier place without it. Why if Boris Yeltsin hadn’t done himself in by drinking on top of a weak heart things today between our two countries might have been altogether different. Oh Boris, you didn’t know!

In office less than nine years, (I take this from from the NYTimes of April 24, 2007), beginning in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and plagued throughout by severe health problems and an excessive fondness for alcohol, Boris Yeltsin added a final chapter to his historical record when, in 1999, he stunned Russians and the world by announcing his resignation, becoming the first Russian leader to give up power on his own in accordance with constitutional processes. At that moment, on New Year’s Eve 1999, he turned over the reins of office to Mr. Putin and after that fell out of the public eye.

Thankyou, Boris!! There are perhaps those in Russia who miss the Soviet Union and say that. Not me.


But now what I’d like to do is to compare side by side the first inaugural addresses, of Bill Clinton on Jan 20, 1993, and of Donald Trump on Jan 20, 2017 (whose address was, according to George Will, without a doubt “the most dreadful inaugural address in history”).

But not now in this post. Here is the link:


Trump’s bad idea, America First!

I’m often asked what do I think of Trump,

the question really asking what do I think of him as President. There was never any doubt in my mind that as a man and presidential candidate he was terrible. But rather than just assuming this terribly bad man and candidate would be a terrible president, I preferred not to answer the question, saying along with many others, that I’d wait and see. Probably because en mon for intérieur I so wanted him to be someone, anyone else, someone better.

Also our country has been so long with mediocre leaders, without having in the same man, president, or presidential candidate a few essential and great qualities, including knowledge, intelligence, courage, and goodness.

Might they be there in Trump, the man who was mostly unknown, buried far down, hidden, and needing only in this instance the successful completion of the presidential campaign to allow them to come out? As difficult as that may be to imagine, given all the crazy statements that Trump had made during the past year or so, I did imagine it and didn’t drop Trump entirely until yesterday, Inauguration Day.trump-swearing-in

Have we ever seen a president in the modern era with all four of the qualities I mention? Well there have been a number of them with knowledge and intelligence (FDR, Kennedy, Nixon, Clinton and Obama), perhaps a few with courage (Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan), probably only one, Jimmy Carter, with goodness. For me Inauguration Day would be Donald Trump’s coming out party, and I looked forward to seeing the man as he came out and revealed for the first time what he really was.


trumpinauguration-speech

And what happened when he came out yesterday? Well already in the days leading up to the Inauguration we had clearly seen (and again I overlooked them) in his tweets to Meryl Streep and John Lewis for example, that there was little or no goodness in the man. Then in the new President’s inauguration speech, as President following the swearing-in ceremony, I saw revealed in all its ignominy his total ignorance of the history of the country, in itself enough to condemn his presidency to irrelevance and eventual failure.

The country he spoke about was never there. While Trump may be intelligent his ignorance of the country he would govern makes that intelligence irrelevant. What’s it supposed to act on? The wrong information? And courage? Does he have it? I don’t know. I haven’t yet seen it. But if he did have courage that alone someday during the next four years might at least permit a change to his thinking to take place and keep his otherwise destined to sink presidency afloat to the very end. But I doubt it.

If Trump had known anything at all about the country’s history he could never have held up his fist and said, “America First.” In his speech that’s what most of all embarrassed me. Think about it, what if the boy in the playground held up his fist shouting to playmates, “me first.”

trump-with-fistHe would have been laughed off the yard (or at least he should have been). And then what if he had said at home in the presence of his neighbors, “my family first.” Laughed at again. He would have been laughed at all the way up to his saying what?

Would there ever come a time when he could have said my whatever first? Trump thinks there is, that the exclusive allegiance to one’s country is that time, and that time is now, not to lesser entities, to oneself, or one’s neighborhood, one’s state, or one’s business, but to one’s country, to America.

I would like to ask him what would be wrong with saying “the world first”? There is nothing wrong with that of course, but Trump because of his ignorance of the world’s history doesn’t understand how this could ever be. He doesn’t understand that this is how in fact the world is, how things are. Instead Trump would impose on all of us while waving his fist in the air a complete misunderstanding of man’s history. The country’s borders he so loves were a very late arrival on the scene and have been the cause of most of the world’s suffering. Would Trump continue this sort of thing?

Then there is the realization that most of us come from other countries, countries with other borders. Does it mean that by coming here we have agreed to protect the new invisible border lines that we encounter when here? Is that then a kind of patriotism, among the very highest of a country’s ideals? Is that what Trump is for, worship the new borders?

And then those borders that according to Trump make us a country, make America, or “America First,” weren’t they all established by wars of aggression? Why in many cases don’t we reject them? That’s history, and does that count for nothing?

And what about the native Americans. Weren’t their lands, lands that they valued no less than we ours, mostly without borders? One crossed freely into and out of them. Would there even have been an America if the natives had been at all able to defend their lands? But they weren’t. And why, because they weren’t patriots? No for the most part they were better than that.


While Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions confront the Senators…

Charles Beard tells us that “the world is largely ruled by ideas, true and false.”

What did he mean by this? Unfortunately we can’t ask him. He died nearly 60 years ago, in 1948. He may have said somewhere to someone what he meant by that, and I may still find the answer by googling his words on the Internet, but haven’t yet done so.

At the time of this historian’s conclusion that the world was ruled by ideas I was alive and in high school, and if there were ideas there about me I wasn’t aware of them. I was going out on my very first date, at the time,  with an upperclassman and learning to neck. I was also playing football and learning to block and tackle, and my world didn’t go much beyond that sort of thing. In the neighborhood where we lived I would walk to school, and out of school play hard with my friends, until I was older and played football and lacrosse on the school playing fields. In the evenings I was back home trying to stay awake doing homework. What “ruled” my world then? My parents, certainly, my friends, and playing ball, but not my ideas about anything. Did I even have any at the time?

I must have known at the time that we had the bomb. Googling it I see that on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. “The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure.”

Four years later in August of 1949 Russia, then the  USSR, exploded its own very first nuclear device. I’ve lived my life, now dansmesquatrevingtans, almost an entire lifetime, waiting as they say for the other shoe to drop. In this case the second shoe when it does drop might be enough to do us all in.

Might Charles Beard have lived a few more years, and experienced the atomic age, would he have said that the world is ruled by ideas? Or by force of arms?  But whatever it was Hiroshima was not an idea. It was real of course, a real nightmare.

Hiroshima has happened to hundreds of thousands of real people, much like us. So would Beard then have said that the world is ruled by the people with the most destructive weapons?

In any case the Pax Americana, that followed, the American century (not yet over), was based upon our having the bomb. BTW, that may be why so many countries have tried, some successfully, most not, to have the bomb. That’s what’s today probably driving the Ayatollahs in Iran. In that regard there are those who say, give them the bomb. There are others who say send it to them in a B-29 bomber, send it to the whole Middle East.

But there is something immediately compelling about Beard’s statement, that which probably originally  attracted me, and pushed me to immediately post it on my blogsite. And although I haven’t yet persuaded myself or anyone else that ideas do rule the world, it’s a work in progress.  I’ll need to persuade you the reader that ideas do and can rule the world. I didn’t know this as a child. Do I know it now as a man?

An interesting question, what ideas may be ruling our world. Our new president doesn’t seem to have any ideas at all, or any you’d want to sign on to. “Make America Great Again”???

Today I listened to Donald Trump’s first press conference. Trump seemed no longer the nonsense spouting idiot he was during the campaign. Nonsense spouting still, but much less, and not at all an idiot. Being elected president will change even the Donald for the better.

But our new guy in Washington continues to bother me. And although I still don’t like him he is not without qualities (that which I couldn’t say of his predecessor, George Bush). He’s still telling untruths, still in a world of untruth, much of his own making.

If he bothers me less today he still doesn’t make me feel good about myself, or the country.  If he bothers me less it’s probably because he’s so close to being the country’s president. That alone is enough to make even Donald Trump interesting. Just nine days from now this guy, still very much a pompous ass, still seeming to believe his own nonsense about the great things he and his appointees are going to do for the country, will be sitting in the Oval Office.

Why I still don’t like him is probably and most of all because he seems unable to laugh at himself. Even as an elected president one ought not to take oneself too seriously. I know he can’t take a joke although I haven’t actually experienced this because his wife and children and more and more the coteries of courtiers always surrounding him probably never risk a joke in his presence.

Does our new president even have a sense of humor, that which in my own personal opinion, even more than the faculty of reason, makes a man a man? I don’t know, but my very preliminary assessment is that he doesn’t. Does that mean that he’s not really a man?…


 

My wife, Josée, reminds me, “There is only One Way to Live, the Trump Way”

From the Huffington Post of December 31

oneway2
Trump Billboard in Mumbai

trumpway

Outside of cropping the picture above and possibly tweaking the contrast, photographer Paul Needham assured The Huffington Post that the image is neither doctored nor edited in any way.

Needham is the co-founder of SimpaNetworks, a company that helps farmers and small shops in rural India install and use solar power systems. He said he stumbled across the scene while driving through Mumbai to meet with some investors.

He said he was inspired to take the photo because of the jarring juxtaposition of the Trump billboard and the poverty and homelessness down below, and that the text on the billboard struck him as particularly naive and offensive.

“I saw Trump towering over the homeless, the children sleeping on cardboard on the street, and I was reminded of the ways in which our [an] economic system can be painfully exclusive and unfair.”   Paul Needham


 

Two guys we’re up against and haven’t a clue (Donald Trump might be a third one?)

Here is one of them, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin a Russian politician and former member of the KGB who is the current President of the Russian Federation.

putin-threat
The words that follow I take from Larry Diamond, who is writing about Putin in the Atlantic Magazine, Dec 9, 2016, —Russia and the Threat to Liberal Democracy: