GOP, Trump

The Dilemma for Republicans … 

Elected Republicans, at least those not swamped by conspiracy theories about stolen elections or Hunter Biden’s laptop, find themselves in a really awkward place. It’s not really a new place, but it is a newly urgent place.

Day by day these Republicans watch as a legal dragnet closes around the leader of their party. What do they do?

Do they lash out at the FBI as the party leader wants them to? Some have done just that. The party that has owned the “law and order” issue since Richard Nixon – another crook who thought himself above the law – was in the White House now has members trashing the integrity of federal law enforcement officers

Top secret documents the FBI says were illegally at Trump’s Florida club

Do they join in, as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has, to summon another mob on the notion that a former president could actually be charged with crimes by the American judicial system?

The party leader is sending decidedly mixed messages. The documents recovered from his closet and office were planted. No, that’s not it, the papers are genuine, but he declassified them. No, on second thought they were his private property, and a federal judge had no business allowing the government he once headed to recover them. No, check that, a special master should review those documents. And the nation’s premier law enforcement agency was corrupt and out to get him.

This guy has had more explanations than a sixth grader caught red handed with a fist in mom’s cookie jar.

Do these Republicans just look away from this national security and potentially violent train wreck?

Some, like Idaho Senator Jim Risch, a senior member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, seem to be doing just that. These profiles in courage have gone silent. They got nothing for us – no defense of the rule of law, no support for the fact that presidential records, particularly top-secret records, are not legally permitted in a Florida resort no matter who lives there, no word about trashing a federal judge and disparaging individual FBI agents is, well, not a very conservative thing to do.

The senator is very focused on national security threats

These silent ones can’t even claim the dog ate their civics homework. What homework? Risch loves to tell his constituents he was once a prosecutor and knows a crook when he sees one, but not now. Risch routinely touts his Intelligence committee and foreign policy bona fides, but in the present case he’s the political equivalent of old, bumbling Sargant Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes fame. He see “nothing, nothing.”

When the leader of their party spouts absolutely ridiculous stuff, as the man did repeatedly this week, including a whole long list of Q-Anon nonsense, you might think it would be time for an intervention. Something like: Check up on the old boy, something is sadly amiss here. But when you allow the party brand to devolve into crazy conspiracy at the hand of a serial liar what are you gonna do? Speak out about it? Nah.

As journalist Bess Levin pointed out recently, “Even before the FBI came a-knocking, the 45th president was up to his neck in legal woes,” including, by Levin’s count, 17 different criminal and civil cases ranging from the party leader’s role in the January 6 insurrection, to the corruption of his family business, to credible allegations of sexual abuse.

This guy is Tony Soprano without the charm, and he will spend the rest of his natural life in and out of depositions, investigations, lawsuits and, as increasingly seems clear, indictments and trials.

But back to the Republican’s dilemma. On the one hand they know all this attention centered on a guy who twice lost the popular vote, was twice impeached and whose actions have shaken the quivering footings of American democracy is an enormous distraction, particularly heading into a midterm election.

On the other hand, they’re stuck with him. After excusing his lack of character and honesty, after shrugging off his misogyny and racism, after cringing, but still tolerating his coziness with Putin and other assorted thugs and low lives, they’re afraid to cross him. Cutting bait now means crossing his most deranged followers, and that is very dangerous politically and even personally. 

And they know it will get worse. Congress will soon return, and the January 6 committee will deliver more revelations. A plucky prosecutor in Atlanta is systematically building a case that a criminal conspiracy attempted to interfere with the presidential election in Georgia. The family business is under extreme pressure. Despite the fulminations and lying and constantly shifting storyline, the government documents case, which has become an obstruction of justice and false statements case is solid and will play out in ways that will almost certainly be detrimental to the party and its leader.

Even a frequent apologist for the former president like National Review columnist Andrew C. McCarthy sees where this is going. “I believe former president Trump is likely to be charged with obstruction of justice and causing false statements to be made to investigators,” McCarthy wrote this week. And he added: “It does not appear that those charges would be difficult to prove.”

So, these awkward place Republicans have squandered the high ground around “law and order” by enabling a guy in so much legal trouble he can’t find competent counsel to represent him. The tough, no nonsense foreign policy realists in the party have allowed their movement to be coopted by delusional fan boy adulation for the white nationalist president of, wait for it, Hungary.

And the MAGA movement is led by a guy, as The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols describes him, that is “one of the weakest and most cowardly men ever to serve as president,” a “leader” lacking the backbone – not to mention the judgment – to stand up for his country rather than bowing down to a former KGB hack.

Having let him off once for inciting an insurrection, these awkward place Republicans know from personal experience what their leader is capable of. He’s really cornered now, and the stakes are a lot higher than losing an election and lying about it.

Joe Biden, demonized as a socialist, a Marxist, a creepy old left wing radical (among the nicer things said about him), caught some grief recently for describing the other party as “semi-fascist.”

He’s not wrong, and we’re closer every day to seeing just how far the awkward Republicans will go to keep from confronting the monster that grew and grew while they wrung their hands, turned their backs and worried about their jobs.

What will they do? What will we do?

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Additional Reading:

Molly Ivins on Roe v. Wade

The Texas Observer has gone to its archives to revisit this piece from the late, great reporter.

“One way to look at the struggle over abortion is the journalist’s way, sifting slowly through the clips, most of them yellow and brittle with age. Story after story is added to the big heap — the legal maneuverings year after year; the legislative reform efforts year after year; the obligatory “balanced” series from the women’s sections, some good, some poor; the case histories, all that terror and misery reduced to 10 inches of type; the brief death notices; the statistics stories, the opinion polls; the gory ads from the Right to Life groups; the Catholic papers, arguing again and again that that their position is not based on religious doctrine; doctors under indictment; the Florida woman convicted of manslaughter because she got an abortion; the slow changes, the medical association votes in favor of reform, the mental health organization votes in favor of reform, a legislator speaks out, a good government group; more deaths, more statistics, more polls.”

Worth your time. We rarely get a chance to go back in time, but that is where we are.


The John Birch Society Never Left

Another piece putting history – and our current moment – in context.

“Trump may have been our country’s first post-truth president. But the post-truth environment of conspiracy we are living in today has been a long time coming. We owe it in part to the truth-optional habits on the right that Robert Welch and the Birch Society exemplified—and in part to the same Republican elites who were complicit every step of the way.”

From Rick Perlstein and Edward H. Miller.


Retiring AP reporter chronicles 4 decades covering Congress

Longtime Associated Press reporter Alan Fram has thoughts.

“Trump’s norm-busting four years featured constant clashes with Congress including Republicans, from whom he tolerated no dissent.

“I prodded one Republican, privately critical of Trump, to talk on the record. ‘He’d send me to Gitmo,’ he said.

“House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., just 48, announced in early 2018 that he would retire. He later told author Tim Alberta he could not endure two more years working with Trump.”

Here’s the link.


See you again soon. Many thanks for reading.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Liz Lost, But Spineless Republicans Killed Their Party … 

Forty-eight years ago this month Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and House GOP leader John Rhodes, also an Arizonan, told President Richard Nixon the jig was up. Nixon had to resign. The president’s effort to obstruct justice related to the Watergate burglary was the last straw. If Nixon refused to quit he would surely be impeached and removed from office.

A few days earlier – August 6. 1974 – Goldwater, the party’s 1964 presidential nominee and among the most conservative men in American public life, let go at a meeting of his Republican colleagues. “There are only so many lies you can take,” Goldwater said of the president, “and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House – today!”

Barry Goldwater, center, flanked by Senate GOP leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and Representative John Rhodes after a historic meeting with Richard Nixon at the White House in August 1974.

Nixon resigned on August 9, pushed out of the White House with fellow Republicans holding the door.

That Republican Party is dead, buried and apparently not in the least mourned by the personality cult that is now prepared to “defund the FBI,” putting law enforcement officers at risk, while dismissing very real evidence that their cult leader committed serious crimes.

Ironically, the last shovel full of cultist dirt was thrown on the vanquished remains of the daughter of the man who served as presidential chief of staff to Republican Gerald Ford, the man who helped rescue the Grand Old Party from the stench of Richard Nixon’s corruption.

The vanquished Liz Cheney has done a favor for democracy by reminding us of what a stand on principle looks like, and her defeat at the hands of an outspoken defender of Donald Trump’s Big Lie should finally put the lie to idea that the modern Republican Party is anything more than a grave threat to the future of the country.

In the aftermath of Cheney’s thumping defeat in Wyoming earlier this week some delusional conservatives have argued that her defeat had little to do with Donald Trump, who endorsed her hack opponent and railed against Liz for months and was instead about Cheney failing to represent her constituents – “left them behind and stopped listening” as one revisionist historian put it on Twitter. 

Nonsense.

Cheney lost because she dared to point out the obvious shortcomings of the most corrupt man to ever consume a Big Mac in the Oval Office. Cheney won re-election two years ago with 73% of the Wyoming vote. Tuesday, she received barely 29%.

The difference between those two numbers is simply Trump. Trump and endless lies about the election he lost, about January 6 and about his efforts to corrupt our government, our military and intimidate election officials. A rational political party does not go immediately to the default position that a former president who carried away top secret documents and refused to return them is the victim of some “deep state” plot. You have to work hard at being that delusional.

Yet, that is the party that rendered its judgment in Wyoming this week and did so previously in Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere where embracing the Big Lie has become the only currency needed to stay in the good graces of “the base” and the cult leader.

There is an old saw in politics that holds that you “never blame the voters,” but enough of the cultists have grabbed the GOP steering wheel that you simply can’t explain their fascination with conspiracy and lies without also naming them the responsible parties.

The country didn’t reach the point it finds itself because Donald Trump took Putin’s side against his own government, ginned up fabrications about a fair election, summoned a mob to overturn his defeat and then squirreled away national secrets in a closet in Mar-a-Lago.

No, we are where we are because enough of our fellow citizens actively accepted this palpable nonsense, and even worse continue to encourage more of it.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Liz Cheney said of Trump and January 6. Uttering that uncomfortable truth doomed her, while nearly all her Republican colleagues in Congress either sat on their hands or openly celebrated her defeat.

There was a moment, admittedly in a land light years away from ours, that once-principled Republicans – people like Oklahoma’s Tom Cole and Idaho’s Mike Simpson – would have made a difference by making a stand in favor of genuine conservative principles, including telling the truth to their followers, rather than lending credence to the party leader’s grievance fueled claptrap. But that party is, sadly, as dead as Gerald Ford.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham ran against Donald Trump, called him unqualified, said the GOP would regret nominating him, criticized Trump after January 6 and today is among his biggest defenders

As Mark Leibovich wrote recently in The Atlantic: “Of all the elements of cowardice that have afflicted the Republican Party, a particularly pathetic one is the terror so many of Cheney’s colleagues appear to have about losing their jobs. Maybe they can’t bear the thought of forfeiting their congressional parking spaces or fancy pins, or maybe they simply lack the stomach to get called bad names by Donald Trump. So they do whatever it takes to pass their tribal loyalty tests and survive their next election. They’re so afraid of being called a ‘former member of Congress’ that they’ll never know what it feels like to be called ‘courageous.’”

The good news for Liz Cheney, unlike a Cole or a Simpson, is she won’t have to pretend to respect Kevin McCarthy, the reptilian House Speaker wannabe who can hardly take a breath without calculating how exhaling will play with Donald Trump. And it seems entirely possible that Cheney will emerge from defeat, unlike the spineess characters who survive to grovel again, stronger and even better positioned to call out the vast shortcomings of the cult leader

“Look, she’s going to go on into eternity, or as long as is necessary” to stop Trump, former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson told Leibovich. “She’s going to keep doing everything she can to bring down this oafish man, who’s filled with revenge and hatred and total disregard for the laws of the United States.”

Where would you rather be – defending democracy and truth or tolerating conspiracies, while sniffing the backside of the Prince of Mar-a-Lago?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some additional good reading suggestions …

How Bolivia’s ruthless tin baron saved thousands of Jewish refugees

There was more to a cutthroat South American mining titan than anyone knew. From The Guardian.

“In 2004, after five years of sorting through thousands of pages of correspondence with consulates, businesses and international Jewish organisations, the team revealed their astonishing discovery. The papers demonstrated that Moritz Hochschild had helped to rescue as many as 22,000 Jews from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe by bringing them to Bolivia between 1938 and 1940, at a time when much of the continent had shut its doors to fleeing Jews.”

Fascinating story.


Does Preserving Democracy Require Letting Trump Off?

Mona Charon answers that question.

“The world is upside down. It is the Republicans who are completely politicizing the rule of law by declaring that any accountability for their master is ipso facto illegitimate. Hardly a single Republican office holder suggested waiting to see what the evidence was before reaching a conclusion. If they’d investigated for five seconds, they could have learned that the National Archives and Records Administration as well as the Department of Justice engaged in lengthy negotiations with Trump and his representatives to get the stolen documents back.”

From The Bulwark.


No Great Stagnation in Guinness

A really great piece about the famous drink from Ireland.

It’s good for you …

“The key to Guinness’ robustness has been innovation. Through a series of key innovations, Guinness was able to stay on top despite (among other things) a famine, mass emigration, two World Wars, a civil war, and the changeover from British to sovereign rule. Guinness is responsible for changes in workplace relations, several foundational advances in the physics of brewing, and even the famous Student’s t-test in statistics. Indeed, Guinness has been one of the key drivers of innovation in Ireland.”

The author is Will O’Brien.


Why Major League Baseball Tried to Rein in Babe Ruth

“For all his wealth and popularity, Ruth remained an outsider, even in the sport he popularized. In this, he demonstrated the chasm between America’s stated ideals and its nastier realities. His poor background did not win him respect; instead, it made him suspect among baseball elites, who wanted less volatile stars who would mold the game into a middle-class institution.”

Here’s the link.


Thanks much for reading. Keep the faith.

GOP, Idaho Politics, Insurrection, Trump

Political Survival …

Note: Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, reminded us – again – this week that Republican senators had a chance in February 2021 to convict Donald Trump and guarantee that he would never again hold public office.

Most Senate Republicans twisted themselves into political pretzels to avoid hold Trump accountable for the Capitol attack on January 6, even though no one attempted to defend his actions.

As Serwer wrote: “Although seven Republican senators broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, most of the caucus remained loyal to a man who attempted to bring down the republic, because in the end, they would have been content to rule over the ruins.”

Which brings us to very Republican Idaho …


Idaho congressman Russ Fulcher was one of 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election for the winner, Joe Biden.

Idaho congressman Mike Simpson has called the House committee investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “a witch hunt.” Simpson’s dismissal of the investigation as a purely partisan exercise ignores the fact that a string of Republican witnesses – the former attorney general, several Trump White House staffers, the Georgia secretary of state and the Arizona speaker of the house – have provided unrefuted testimony under oath. Some witch hunt. 

Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher posted this photo on social media. He’s signing a document on January 6 objecting to the presidential election

Idaho senator Mike Crapo, while accepting the endorsement of the former president of the United States has had almost nothing to say about that president’s increasingly well-documented efforts to overturn the election and prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty to count electoral votes.

Idaho senator James Risch, like Crapo, opposed creation of an independent panel to investigate the Capitol insurrection and what caused it. Risch remains mum as more testimony implicates the former president in what a federal judge has called “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Idaho attorney general candidate Raul Labrador, we know from text messages assembled by the congressional committee, implored then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6, as Labrador put it, to “get Trump to say something to calm down the people.” Labrador, who supported a bogus legal strategy aimed at overturning state elections, also said to Meadows: “I believed in Trump and I would probably object to the certification today.”

This is the top leadership of the Idaho Republican Party systematically ignoring a Constitutional and political crisis that makes Watergate look like a family picnic. And all in the name of party solidarity.

The Idaho Republican party once included the principled leadership of conservatives like Phil Batt, Jim McClure, Jim Jones and Dirk Kempthorne. The party’s elected leaders today seem as far from principled as Bonners Ferry is from Malad. To steal a line from the late columnist and commentator Mark Shields, these Idaho politicians make Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” 

In commentary in Idaho newspapers recently, former newspaper reporter and one-time GOP publicist Chuck Malloy suggests he knows what Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch are up to – I include Labrador, as well – with their not so artful dodge of the political issue of our time. The Idaho Republicans are, Malloy wrote, “political survivors,” and “political survivors” know “better than to cross” Donald Trump.

Idaho’s “political survivors”

“Political survivors” don’t “buck leadership” because survivors – guys like Crapo in Malloy’s telling – get ahead by making a “political career of being a loyal soldier for Republicans.”

I’m certain my old friend Chuck wrote that to explain – and excuse perhaps – the motivations behind a lack of character on the part of these political leaders. Perhaps inadvertently Chuck also hints at an even bigger truism. Idaho Republican leaders are scared – scared of Trump, scared of the most radical elements in their own party, scared of losing office and power, scared of the mob coming for them. They’re like Mafia capos, the middlemen in the crime syndicate, who aren’t directly in charge of the wrongdoing, but know about it and condone, afraid to cross the Big Boss.

“Republican lawmakers fear that confronting Trump, or even saying in public how they actually feel about him, amounts to signing their political death warrant,” Jonathan Martin, journalist and author of This Will Not Pass said recently. “For most of them, it’s not more complicated than that.”

Survival at all cost no matter the price. 

Rusty Bowers, the very conservative Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified recently before the January 6 committee, is a living, breathing example of the chaos and danger that has been unleashed by the Trumpian Big Lie about the election. After telling the committee that he told Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he would not violate his oath to defend the law and the Constitution to further the former president’s lies about the election, Bower related what happened to him and his family.

Pro-Trump supporters used bullhorns as they protested outside Bower’s Mesa home. Protesters filmed Bower’s house and at least one man showed up with a gun and threatened a neighbor. A recall effort was mounted against the devout Mormon and BYU grad. He was accused of corruption and pedophilia. His friends attacked him. Trump lied about him.

All this happened, while Bower’s daughter lay dying inside his home under siege. All this happened because a conservative Republican told the truth about Donald Trump and pushed back on the stolen election lies. Election workers in Georgia and elsewhere have similarly been threatened and intimidated.

It may well be that Idaho’s Republican leaders are merely pragmatically invested in continuing to be, as Chuck says, “political survivors,” toeing the line and tending to tribal loyalties, but what if they won’t tell the truth because they are merely political cowards rather than survivors? Considering the threats and intimidation raining down on who have dared to tell the truth – Rusty Bowers and this week former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson among them – who can really blame these small, timid and quiet men from Idaho?  

Yet, like Bowers, like the Georgia secretary of state, like young Ms. Hutchinson, like the Capitol Police officers who fought – and some died – to protect Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch on January 6, these Idaho Republicans also took an oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States.

That oath, as we heard from Speaker Bowers, is a solemn, honorable commitment. It doesn’t apply only when things are easy or convenient. There is no escape clause. You can’t suspend it when the politics get ugly, when Trump demands it, when the mob comes calling, or when too many of your constituents embrace nonsensical conspiracy theories. There is simply no oath that offers an “opt out” for “political survivors.”

Malloy suggests Idaho Republicans believe political courage is for losers. And they may be right. If that be so then we are all losers, and our democracy is the biggest loser of all.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other carefully curated items for your consideration …

Punchbowl and power in Washington, DC

I’m admittedly pretty “old school.” My sense of journalism in rooted in the memory of Walter Cronkite, David Broder and Ben Bradley. Oh, I look at all the “new” stuff out there – the newsletters, Substack posts, and even Punchbowl, a strange name for a news organization, but OK …

If you care. He’s a dive into what is driving political news out of Washington, D.C. these days.

From the Columbia Journalism Review.


Mystery of Waterloo’s dead soldiers to be re-examined by academics

Waterloo …

“Writing in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Prof Tony Pollard, director of the centre for battlefield archaeology at the University of Glasgow, has collated vivid descriptions and images from those who visited Waterloo in the aftermath of the 1815 battle, which pitted Napoleon’s forces against a British-led coalition and a Prussian-led one.”

The image is, well, a bit grisly. From The Guardian.


The Early Life of the Renowned Leader of the Lakotas, Sitting Bull

Growing up in South Dakota I’ve always been fascinated by the great Sitting Bull. There is a new book.

“There was no such thing as emptiness in the world,” one Lakota remembered from his childhood. “Even in the sky there were no vacant places. Everywhere there was life.”

Here is an excerpt.


Liz Cheney at Reagan Library

Another tumultuous week in American politics and history. I’ll leave you with encouragement to listen to Liz Cheney’s speech this week at the Reagan Library.

“Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said.

Here’s a link to C-Span’s coverage.


Thanks, as always, for following along. Stay in touch. And stay informed. These are perilous times.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Character Test …

We all knew that the Age of Trump was going to end up being a character test for Republican officeholders.

Way back in 2015 – remember those simpler days – most of these politicians knew the guy who bankrupted casinos, swindled contractors and cheated on his several wives was devoid of that central element of personal and political leadership: character.

But they were tribal, they wanted to win, and, after all, their supporters wanted to send a big message to the libs and the elites, so the GOP’s own elites tucked their reservations in a vest pocket and got on the Trump Train.

When he attacked John McCain, a decorated war hero, as a loser they bit their tongues. He is crude and mean and boorish, but the base loves him. When he slandered a Hispanic judge or the Gold Star parents of a Muslim solider, they looked away. When he praised Putin, they decided no big deal. When he attempted to extort the Ukrainian president in order to manufacture dirt on his political opponent, they let it slide.

When Trump attacked McCain … it was mostly crickets from GOP politicians

When he surrounded himself with cranks and grifters and fellow con men, and when the few with any character left or were fired, it was just business as usual. They got a tax cut for the millionaires and billionaires, after all. When he pardoned the sloppy, seditious Steve Bannon and repugnant, reprehensible Roger Stone, as well as a host of others, ensuring their silence, the characterless were busy elsewhere.

When he began, without a scintilla of evidence, to sow doubt about the election, always suggesting that unless he won the whole deal was rigged, they took their own election victories in stride. They knew it was a joke. But, hey, nothing to see here.

When he summoned the mob, incited the mob and embraced the fiction of a stolen election many Republican officeholders actually helped advance the Big Lie. They are still lying. They know it, you know it, but in for a penny, in for a pound after all.

Impeach and disqualify him from ever polluting the White House again? Not on your life. It’s all just “politics.”

But there is a funny thing about squandering the notion that character in public life really does matter. The smell of it sticks like stink on you know what. And it really stinks when someone from your own ideological tribe exhibits real character.

We saw it this week in the form of a conservative Republican, a Mormon graduate of BYU, and the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. Rusty Bowers might have been called from central casting for his role before the January 6 investigation, that is, before the Malice from Mar a Lago made character as completely fungible as a degree from Trump University.

“Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it,” Bowers told Rudy Giuliani, the shameless Trump lackey who was pressing a fellow Republican to create fake electors in order to pervert a presidential election.

“I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of Arizona,” Bowers told Rudy. “You’re asking me to do something against my oath. And I will not break my oath.”

The Republican speaker of the Arizona House told the truth about Trump

“What makes a conservative Republican resist Trump and his deranged and fact-free election conspiracies?” Walter Shapiro asked recently in The New Republic. “Where do political figures like Bowers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger [another witness before the congressional committee] find their courage while the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham become spineless Trump toadies?”

The answer is character, and character is what you do when you care more about the country than your tribe, or the next election or your own power.

Donald Trump pressured Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, “to find 11,780 votes” to reverse the electoral will of the state’s voters. It was shakedown full of Mafia boss-like threats and bluster. Raffensperger refused. Since then he’s been subjected to death threats and some loser broke into the home of his widowed daughter-in-law apparently seeking to intimidate him. He resisted.

We are living through the greatest peril of American democracy since the Civil War. Like southern Democrats in 1860, most in today’s Republican Party are willing to tolerate the threats, intimidation and corruption because they have rejected the notion that character counts.

There was a massive Trump directed conspiracy to overturn the last presidential election. Only an American living in a Fox News bubble or trolling the dark corners of Facebook can deny what happened. Republican after Republican witness is telling us. The witnesses of character are speaking to both the threats we face and to our better angels.

“Obviously Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and the rest of the Kracken lunatics are incapable of shame,” writes Never Trump conservative Sarah Longwell. “As are some of the 147 Republicans who refused to certify the 2020 election. But I’ve got to believe that there are many Republicans who – despite claiming they’re not paying attention to the hearings—are watching the testimony of people like [Georgia election worker Shaye] Moss, Brad Raffensperger, and Rusty Bowers with a gnawing sense of dread. Aware, perhaps with renewed clarity, that by carrying water for Trump’s lies, they had a meaningful hand in unleashing devastation on many people’s lives. Including Rusty Bowers daughter, who, we learned yesterday, was dying of a terminal illness while her family was attacked because Bowers refused to betray his oath. I hope those realizations keep them up at night.”

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” said the conservative congresswoman from Wyoming, Liz Cheney, speaking to the boneless wonders of the modern GOP. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

That’s the thing about surrendering any principle and squandering any sense that character matters – you have to find a way to live with yourself.

That stain is permanent; the stink never goes away.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few more suggestions …

Watergate’s Ironic Legacy

Amidst the January 6 hearings, the fiftieth anniversary of Nixon’s scandal reminds us that it has only gotten harder to hold presidents accountable.

“On June 22, 1972, a few days after the Watergate break-in, President Nixon met with H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff. ‘It sounds like a comic opera,’ Nixon said, so poorly executed that no one would think ‘we could have done it.’ Haldeman agreed, picturing well-dressed men installing wiretaps with rubber gloves, ‘their hands up and shouting ‘Don’t shoot’ when the police come in.’ Yet the arrests raised concerns at the White House. With less than five months before Election Day, Nixon and his advisers worried that the FBI investigation of the break-in might reveal other illegal activities.”

A good piece by Stuart Streichler in Boston Review.


How to Decolonize the Capitol

Art historians, legislators, and activists have long decried themes of White supremacy in the art collection of the U.S. Capitol. Can this place be decolonized?

The U.S. Capitol rotunda: scene of insurrection and lots of art

“Ever since John Trumbull was commissioned to paint four monumental history paintings for the Rotunda in 1817, Congressmen have used the Capitol Art Collection to tell a simple and seductive story — indeed, given its location, the official story — about America. Like all forms of government propaganda, this artwork was designed to justify and to persuade, laundering ideological positions into ‘history.’ But as the federal government diversifies, this story will likely be challenged more forcefully than it has been in the past. Nearly a quarter of the 117th Congress, which came into office in 2022, comprises lawmakers who identify as racial and/or ethnic minorities, making this Congress the most diverse in history.”

You’ll find this piece on a terrific architecture, landscape and urban design website – Places. Check it out.


‘I changed kids’ perspectives’: Muggsy Bogues, the 5ft 3in star who broke NBA norms

A wonderful little story about the shortest player in NBA history.

“This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the most striking picks in the NBA draft’s long history. In 1987, the Washington Bullets picked Muggsy Bogues – all 5ft 3in of him – with the 12th overall pick.”

From The Guardian.


Thanks for following along. All the best. Stay safe.

GOP, Trump, Ukraine

A Matter of Character …

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic speech to a joint session of Congress properly received a great deal of attention this week. The former comedian turned international leader reminds us not only of the stakes in a country under siege, but that courage and character in the face of great adversity is the very essence of political leadership.

Zelensky’s incredible performance, literally under fire, has summoned comparisons to Winston Churchill’s leadership in 1940. As the Financial Times noted, Zelensky “never aspired to be a war leader. Yet it is precisely his empathy and communication skills, teamed with exceptional guts, that have turned him into the voice of his people and their resistance, and a symbol of modern Ukrainian identity.”

Ukrainian president Zelensky with some of his soldiers

A remarkable gesture by the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia received less attention, but the dangerous rail journey to Kiev undertaken by the eastern European leaders not only demonstrated solidarity with Zelensky but was also noteworthy for the courage and character the leaders displayed. Both moments will live in history.

If only we could count on a bit more character and courage in our own politics.

Yet, having said that I detected something genuinely encouraging amid all the usual partisan brawling and useless backbiting. Some courage and character broke out.

Utah senator Mitt Romney spoke again, as he has in the past, in support of American democracy, and specifically in support of courage and character. At a fundraising event for embattled Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, Romney received a standing ovation when he said, “People of character and courage have stood up for right at times when others want to look away. Such a person is Liz Cheney.”

Cheney, of course, is under assault from the fact-free Trumpian alt right and the former president for having the gumption to stand up to our own home-grown anti-Zelensky. Cheney seems determined to get the full story of the January 6 Capitol insurrection no matter where the truth leads.

Here at home, Romney said, “what has kept us from falling in with the same kind of authoritarian leader as Vladimir Putin are the strengths of our institutions, the rule of law, our courts, Congress, and so forth.” That so forth includes character and courage.

Another prominent western Republican had much the same message this week. Writing in the Washington Post, two-term Montana governor and former Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot said: “Rarely stopping to inventory the essential qualities in human character, we all know them when we see them: decency, honesty, humility, honor and faithfulness.”

Racicot said his purpose in speaking out about the unfitness of the “leader” of the Republican Party “was to urge all Americans of good sense and honest purpose to confront, define and vindicate the truth. Sometimes that truth has sharp edges, but nonetheless, it is still the truth. This is one of those times.

“And so it must be said again: Donald Trump does not possess the essential qualities of character to lead this nation, most especially in a time of crisis.”

Racicot, typically a measured, quiet man not given to overstatement, was scathing and specific in denouncing Trump’s truly disgusting comments about Putin’s war on Ukraine. “If the former president’s recent remarks about Ukraine had amounted to just another ration of narcissistic self-indulgence, it would have been briefly noted, but not thoroughly examined. Such patent nonsense has become, after all, predictable and expected.”

The former Republican chairman went on: “The vicious actions of the Russian president have been universally condemned by decent people everywhere. But not by Trump. To the contrary, the former president could express only his admiration of the Russian president’s tactics — describing them as ‘savvy,’ ‘smart’ and ‘genius.’

“There is no record of anybody else, other than Trump, anywhere, at any time during this Russian massacre, who has described Vladimir Putin’s actions as ‘savvy,’ ‘smart’ and ‘genius.’”

Racicot said the former president’s remarks display a shocking “lack of maturity and morality” as Putin’s artillery and missiles rain down death on hospitals and schools in Ukraine.

The conclusion of Racicot’s piece in the Post spoke directly to those politicians who duck and cover rather than confront the character and courage issues that confront their party and our county.

Putin: not savvy, but he does have really long tables

 “Those who, during this painful moment in human history, find any redeeming value or humor in the former president’s remarks; or who continue to ignore his profound lack of knowledge or intellectual curiosity; or who excuse his lack of regard for the truth; or who consciously or unconsciously modify the priorities of their own character or moral imperatives to secure his favor, or the favor of his disciples, might do well to remember the words of author J.M. Smith: ‘If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.’”

Donald Trump did not create the deep fissures that have contributed an America that is more divided, less civil, more mean and less committed to truth. Those attributes, sadly, have long been features of a sprawling, diverse nation that has too rarely confronted its own contradictions.

But Trump, his willing accomplices and those afraid to speak truth about him have exploited division and distrust for the basest of reasons – power and punishment. Maybe the Trumpian fever is about to break – we can hope – since Trump endorsed candidates in several states are floundering.

Still, hoping the stench goes away naturally does not absolve Republicans in Congress, statehouses and city councils from the moral decisions they have made to tolerate this intolerable man and the damage he has done to American democracy. By lack of courage, they have made lack of character acceptable in the highest office of the land.

We cannot predict the future of the brave people of Ukraine or that of their determined president. The future may well hold much more death and destruction with implications far beyond eastern Europe. There is little reason for optimism, but at this historic moment Volodymyr Zelensky and the country he leads reminds us of what truly matters – courage and character.

Celebrate that. Embrace that. Demand that of our leaders.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other items that may be of interest …

MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement fails to address players’ biggest grievances

I’m eager for baseball, but really frustrated by the owner’s lockout and the agreement that – finally – emerged. A good explainer here from Victor Matheson, a sports economist at Holy Cross.

Spring training finally got going this week

“Baseball junkies will notice several cosmetic changes to the game right away: an expanded postseason, sponsor advertisements on jerseys and a designated hitter in the National League. The agreement also opens the door for rule changes in 2023 that include larger bases, limits on defensive shifts and a pitch clock. Other than some real improvements to the salaries for the league’s lowest-paid players, however, the economics of baseball’s underlying labor model remains as flawed as ever.”

Read the whole thing:


“I can help them” – one man’s journey from Portland to Ukraine’s frontlines

A Portland man heads home to fight for Ukraine.

“Sergey is one of about 66,000 Ukrainians returning home to help fight the Russian invasion following President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for Ukrainians abroad return to the homeland to fight the Russians. Korenev, whose family is Jewish, is one Ukrainian in the US answering the call.”

From The Guardian:


How the North Beat the South, Morally and Economically

A very interesting new book on dueling economies during the Civil War.

“The South was bountiful but impervious to change. In the decade before the war, cotton production jumped from 2.8 million bales to more than 4 million, and the value of its four million slaves doubled. This industry was centered in four hundred mostly contiguous counties of loamy soil that was essentially a monoculture. In the North, farmers sought to improve varieties of wheat and corn. They invested in farm and machinery. Southern planters felt no need to innovate. There was scarcely any patent activity in cotton and little investment in machines. They scarcely invested in capital goods. It was cheaper to breed Negroes.”

The book is Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War by Roger Lowenstein.

Here is the link to an excerpt:


Cooking with Dorothy Sayers

Miss Dorothy L. Sayers, the famous author, whose radio play introducing Christ as a character has caused widespread controversy, is seen here Feb 6, 1942 in London signing a visitors’ book where she addressed the lunch- time service congregation at St. Martin’s-In-The-Fields. (AP Photo)

Loved this piece from The Paris Review.

“Dorothy Sayers was said to enjoy both food and drink in great quantities. And her characters do as well.”

The link:


That’s it for this week. Thanks for following alone. Stay well and be in touch.

GOP, Trump, Ukraine

The Ukraine Memory Hole …

“We have the evidence to prove President Trump ordered the aid withheld, he did so to force Ukraine to help his re-election campaign … we can and will prove President Trump guilty of this conduct and of obstructing the investigation into his conduct.”

California Congressman Adam Schiff during the Trump impeachment trial concerning Ukraine


Military analysts, and most famously the Prussian Carl von Clausewitz, have long referenced the “fog,” or uncertainty that always surrounds war. Given the best planning and skilled execution, battles never unfold the way they are envisioned on a map in a secure location.

Wars become a blur. Information is unreliable. People make mistakes. Supplies get destroyed or sidetracked. Leaders and followers stumble around in the dark amid death, destruction and dread.

A fog of war descends.  

One suspects Vladimir Putin has lived in this state for two weeks now. The war crimes this “small, feral-eyed” man – that’s Senator Mitt Romney correctly describing Putin – has perpetrated in Ukraine will live in infamy. The heinous crimes are visible to all. The former KGB man is doomed. The only questions are how long it will take to be rid of him and how many innocents will die while the world waits.

Putin’s War on Ukraine involves bombing hospitals (NBC photo)

Yet, while we wait and contemplate what Putin has done to a mostly peaceful post-war Europe, at least a Europe where NATO never seriously faced off against a nuclear armed Russian, and before Americans become consumed with gas prices rather than crimes against humanity, we should confront some hard truths about our own Ukraine back story.

Tribal politics have done much to damage the United States. Good faith in our civic life has become as rare as $2 regular at the pump. Lies and misinformation dominate seemingly every debate. The work is underway, therefore, to rewrite the Ukraine narrative in the interest of sparing many conservative politicians of any accounting for how cavalierly they treated issues in eastern Europe when their guy was running the show.

As good a place to start to plug the memory hole is Paul Manafort, the Republican political operative and lobbyist who lived a high life and made millions, as NBC reported in 2017, “working for a corrupt pro-Russian political party that repeatedly disparaged America’s most important military alliance” – that would be NATO.

Just to jog your memory, Manafort “volunteered” for no salary to work on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign even though he was reportedly in dire need of cash.

[Personal observation: political consultants are some of the most money conscious people in our system. They are always afraid the political client will run out of money and they won’t get paid. To work for the pleasure of being associated closely with a world-class narcissist is, to say the least, unusual.]

Manafort did several things during his time with Trump. He engineered a remarkable change in the Republican platform. As the Washington Post reported in July 2016: “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”

One Republican who opposed the platform sight of hand was Diana Denman, a Texas delegate to the 2016 convention. Her comments in 2016 read in the context of Putin’s war today are little short of stunning. “The Ukrainian people are trying to come out of the past and stay free,” Denman said. “We owe to those who are fighting for freedom still to give them a helping hand.”

“I’m very passionate and supportive of the Reagan foreign policy of peace through strength,” Denman said.

Since there are no coincidences in politics it’s not a stretch to believe the GOP platform switch was orchestrated to please Manafort’s once and potentially future Russian clients. The change in longstanding Republican policy was simply a very cheap gift to Vladimir Putin, who Trump made no secret – then or now – of admiring, indeed emulating.

Paul Manafort, arrested, charged, convicted … pardoned by Trump

We also know, despite ongoing efforts to whitewash the truth, that Manafort gave sensitive Trump campaign polling information to one of his Russian contacts at the very time Putin was engaged in a massive social media disinformation campaign designed to influence the presidential election, and sow division in the American electorate.

[Another reminder: a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed the Russian interference. It was no hoax.]

Trump and his cult now claim he was tough with Putin. It’s a lie. Trump essentially endorsed Putin’s annexation – steal – of Crimea. Trump sided with Putin rather than U.S. intelligence agencies on the matter of Russian election interference, infamously saying in Helsinki in July 2018, “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump embraced the fiction that Ukraine had meddled in the election, a move he made after Ukrainian records implicated Manafort in a financial scandal that led to his conviction. Manafort was, of course, pardoned by Trump.

Then came the “perfect call” between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, a conversation that was so imperfect as to warrant Trump’s first impeachment. To again plug the memory hole: Trump tried to shake down Zelensky by withholding military assistance from the newly elected president in exchange for a storyline that Ukraine was investigating Joe Biden.

At a time when Ukraine needed building up, Trump did Putin’s bidding.

[Another reminder: remember the Portland hotelier Gordon Sondland? He was U.S. ambassador to the European Union and was in the middle of the Trump shakedown. He testified to the truth of a central fact in Trump’s impeachment. Watch it again and wonder how history might have changed had Republicans senators done their duty.]

Republicans, like Idaho’s Jim Risch and Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who minimized and excused Trump’s “drug deal” approach to Ukraine in 2019 are now shamelessly acting like all this history never happened. They had a chance to rid themselves of this cancer on conservatism by convicting Trump of abuse of power. They punted.

“Trump didn’t care about the people of Ukraine—their lives or their democracy,” Amanda Carpenter wrote recently in The Bulwark. “He simply understood that he had power over them and could abuse this power to help his re-election. And his fellow Republicans, almost to a person, either helped him with this blackmail or defended it once it came to light.”

Biden’s handling of Putin’s war has hardly been perfect. He, too, suffers in the fog or war, but Biden has succeeded, at least so far, in uniting and re-invigorating NATO and the European Union, the one really big thing Putin sought, with Trump’s help, to destroy.

The endgame of this crisis, as serious as any in Europe since the 1930’s, is far from clear. What is clear is that one political party, a party once with a tradition of hardheaded national security policy, willingly enabled the dangerous impulses of a failed real estate developer who has never made a secret of his admiration for a dangerous dictator.

While we pray for the people of Ukraine we should remember how far into deceit and depravity that party was willing to take the country – and the world.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest …

Our local-news situation is even worse than we think

A sobering serious from the Columbia Journalism Review.

“As reporting staffs have shrunk, the American population has grown. Since 2004, the number of newspaper newsroom staff per 100,000 people—a measure we might call “coverage density”—has dropped by a staggering 62 percent. This shows statistically what we knew anecdotally: reporters are spread far thinner than they used to be. It also helps explain the rise in ‘ghost newspapers,’ more than 1,000 publications that have lost more than half of their staff in recent years.”

Link to the series


Charter school program favored by Tennessee governor rewrites civil rights history

Good example here of why local news coverage is so darn important.

“If Governor Bill Lee gets his way, Tennessee will become a major player in a network of taxpayer-funded charter schools set up by a Michigan college with close ties to former President Donald Trump.

“Lee calls Hillsdale College’s approach to teaching civics ‘informed patriotism.'”

Some conservatives are worried about kids being “indoctrinated,” and that is exactly what they really want to do. It’s not history, but “informed patriotism.”

Good reporting from Nashville’s NewChannel 5:


Billionaire-backed group promotes hunt for voter fraud, uses discredited techniques

The big lie continues, perhaps even picks up steam in Wisconsin.

“Ever since Trump failed to convince the world that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud, like-minded people across the country have been taking up the same rallying cry, revisiting that vote with an eye toward what will happen in 2022.

“Now, a new group is stepping into a more conspicuous role in that world by providing easily accessible tools for people in Wisconsin, other Midwest battleground states and, eventually, the entire country to forge ahead with a quest to prove election irregularities.”

The money is coming from the hard right Wisconsin industrial family, the Uihleins, part of a network of deep pocketed activists who are keeping the big lie alive. Great reporting from Pro Publica and the Wisconsin Examiner.


Pulitzer winner Walter Mears dies, AP’s ‘Boy on the Bus’

A great tribute to a remarkable political reporter.

Jimmy Carter and the AP’s Walter Mears

“Walter’s impact at the AP, and in the journalism industry as a whole, is hard to overstate,” said Julie Pace, AP executive editor and senior vice president. “He was a champion for a free and fair press, a dogged reporter, an elegant chronicler of history and an inspiration to countless journalists, including myself.”

Read the obit for a glimpse into Walter Mears’ ability to “nail the lead.”


That’s all I got. Thanks for reading. Stay safe.

Democracy, Trump

The Coming Reckoning . . .

Brace yourself.

In the next few months, perhaps even weeks, a former president of the United States is going to be indicted, charged with serious crimes that almost certainly will shake the fragile foundations of American democracy.

To date speculation about charges against Donald J. Trump, the 45th American president, have been largely taking place among legal and Constitutional scholars who watch every development as it unfolds amid the long threads of Trump’s legal exposure. But now the reality of what is likely to happen is increasingly in plain view. The man’s own words – Trump never hides what he’s really thinking or worried about – betray the peril he faces.

Former US President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a “Save America” rally in Conroe, Texas on January 29, 2022. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Trump is committing a type of obstruction in public. During a typically rambling, grievance laced performance in Texas recently, the former president was clear about two things. He read these lines straight off the teleprompter.

“If these radical, vicious racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had … in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta, and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt.”

And this: “If I run and I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly,” Trump said, and then underscoring his intentions “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”

Will Bunch, a practiced Trump watcher who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, called it one of the “most incendiary and most dangerous speeches in America’s 246-year history.” He is not wrong.

In a few words, Trump was signaling again that those not cooperating with investigations into his incitement of an insurrectionist mob on January 6, people like former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, should hang tough. He’ll pardon them when he’s back in power. And that promise has particular influence. Trump’s done it before.

Even more astounding – and more dangerous – Trump is broadcasting to his most committed followers that any effort to hold him to account will be met by protests, and likely violence. There is simply no parallel in American history for a former president to behave in such a reckless, lawless fashion. This is not normal.

As Harry Litman, a former top Justice Department official and now a law professor, wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Under Justice Department prosecution standards, just the publicly available evidence is sufficient to bring an indictment against Trump for the federal crime of obstruction or impeding an official proceeding – in this case, Congress’ certification of a presidential election.”

Prosecutors in Georgia examining Trump’s efforts to intimidate that state’s election officials into “finding” the votes he needed to defeat Joe Biden immediately asked the FBI to assess the risks prosecutors face after Trump’s threat.  

Litman goes on: “The guideline for federal prosecutors specify that prosecutors ‘should’ generally commence prosecution if two circumstances exist: first, the person’s conduct constitutes a federal offense – i.e. the prosecutor has determined that the defendant really is guilty and the prosecution is righteous – and second, the admissible evidence will ‘probably be sufficient’ to convict.”

We also know from extensive reporting, including on the record interviews, that Trump was actively involved in not only the events of January 6, but efforts before the Capitol attack to change the outcome of the election. And that word “change” is important because Trump and his defenders have peddled the fiction that he was just buying time to “investigate” alleged election irregularities. The trouble for Trump is there are no irregularities. Sixty unsuccessful lawsuits drive that point home conclusively.

Still, he sought to “change” the outcome. Trump tried to find a rationale to seize voting machines in several states, even going so far as to flirt with the idea of using the U.S. military to do the deed. He failed only because subordinates refused to follow through.

Former attorney general William Barr, long-time a Trump enabler, acknowledged to ABC’s Jonathan Karl that he eventually reached even his breaking point and quit. “My attitude was:” Barr told Karl for his book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show. “It was put-up or shut-up time. If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”

Former attorney general William Barr calls Trump allegations of election fraud “bullshit”

Meanwhile, New York state officials are continuing a separate and long-running investigation into the Trump family’s business activities. Who knows what else is yet to come?

Brace yourself.

When the indictments come, when the charges are filed, the former president has already indicated what he will do. He’ll rally his troops, including the various militia groups that provided the organizational and physical muscle for January 6. He will insist that he is above any accountability, that the American judicial process is “rigged” against him and that his most armed, angry and grievance driven supporters – his brown shirts – must save the country.

The most committed Trumpists are clearly aware of what is unfolding. It is hardly a secret. The vast majority of Americans however, content to feast on insignificance like Tom Brady’s retirement or the host of Jeopardy, seem unaware of the danger ahead. The big lies about the election, Trump’s bluster and an endless pandemic have numbed us and exhausted us. Jeffrey Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, says it well.

“I actually think the American public is dramatically underplaying how significant and dangerous this is,” Engel told the New York Times recently, “because we cannot process the basic truth of what we are learning about President Trump’s efforts – which is we’ve never had a president before who fundamentally placed his own personal interests above the nation’s.”

Trump has secured absolutely the leadership of the Republican Party. His most violent prone true believers are locked and loaded. The Vichy-like enablers who have refused at every step to denounce and isolate the cancer at the heart of their party won’t save us. They have had many, many chances. They lack the courage to defend democracy, let alone the rule of law.

Brace yourself.

The real Constitutional crisis is coming. To look on the bright side we will never before have seen what is going to happen. It is wholly unique. The dark side of this uniqueness is more difficult to comprehend.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

You may find these items of interest…

Liz Cheney, the GOP’s Unshakeable Gadfly

Fellow Wyoming Republicans have declared she is out of their party and the national party has moved to censure her, but the not-so-gentlewoman from the Cowboy State continues to display real grit and enormous political courage. Books will be written about Ms. Cheney. Whatever you think of her policy positions, she is a profile in courage.

From Washington Monthly: “Like many gadflies who have come before her, Cheney has a knack for calling out the failings of her peers. At times, she seems to relish her newfound role. In a recent interview, she said of [Republican leader Kevin] McCarthy, ‘I wish that he were a brave and honorable man.'”

Read the full piece:


The Marine Who Turned Against U.S. Empire

A good deal of buzz about Jonathan Katz’s new book – Gangsters of Capitalism – a biography, and more, of a mostly forgotten Marine Corps general with the near perfect name – Smedley Butler.

The new book by Jonathan M. Katz

Gangsters of Capitalism is not only a biography of Butler. The long-dead Marine also serves as Katz’s Virgil, leading him on a journey around the world and through the inferno of empire’s afterlife. Katz himself learned about Butler as a reporter for the Associated Press in Haiti. Based in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince during the earthquake in 2010, Katz reported on the disaster, which killed at least 100,000 people; he escaped from the house that served as the AP bureau not long before it collapsed. Haiti’s poverty—the starkest in the hemisphere—unquestionably compounded the natural disaster of the earthquake into a human tragedy. (Chile had a higher magnitude quake the same year, and the deaths numbered in the hundreds.)”

Good read here:


The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up

By the time you read this Texas may be in the middle of another failure of its electric grid. A severe winter storm is forecast for the state. When that happened last year, Senator Ted Cruz went to Cancun (briefly), while lots

of Texans shivered in the dark. It almost certainly will happen again.

“Nobody yet knew just how widespread the blackouts would become—that they would spread across almost the entire state, leave an unprecedented 11 million Texans freezing in the dark for as long as three days, and result in as many as seven hundred deaths. But neither could the governor, legislators, and regulators who are supposed to oversee the state’s electric grid claim to be surprised. They had been warned repeatedly, by experts and by previous calamities—including a major blackout in 2011—that the grid was uniquely vulnerable to cold weather.”

From Texas Monthly.


Dear Mr Joyce: an essay by Edna O’Brien

I celebrated the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses by the great Irish writer James Joyce by taking down my copy and looking at it. I’ve never gotten far reading it. I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, enjoy this essay about Joyce, and maybe sip a cocktail in the old boy’s honor. I’m told his favorite (Michael Collins, too) was brandy and orange liqueur.

“In his youth [Joyce] was suspicious, contemptuous, unaccommodating. He saw his countrymen as being made up of yahoos, adulterous priests and sly deceitful women. He classed it as ‘the venereal condition of the Irish.’ Like the wild geese he had a mind to go elsewhere. He wanted to be continentalised. He liked the vineyards. He had a dream of Paris, and a craze for languages. In literature his heroes were Cardinal Newman and Henrik Ibsen.”

Enjoy. From The Guardian:


Be well. Be generous. All the best and thanks for reading.

2020 Election, Idaho Politics, Trump

An Obligation of Office…

Idaho’s senior senator Mike Crapo did something unusual. His constituents should find it unsettling, even arrogant.

The Republican announced that he will seek a fifth term in the Senate by issuing a press release. No questions asked or answered, thank you very much.

Crapo, who calls himself an “unwavering conservative,” did serve up a little political red meat in his release – no substance, but plenty of fear. “The threats to our values, our way of life and our Constitution itself are intense, extremely well-funded and well-organized,” Crapo said.

I’d like to hear more but Crapo’s not taking questions.

Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

There once was a tradition – perhaps more an obligation – that when candidates announced for high public office they would tour the state, making a series of appearances at airports or hotel ballrooms and engage journalists on why they were applying for a job. A big part of the deal was to answer questions, or at least act like you were doing so.

Like so many other things we can be bemoan as lost to a better past is the notion that a politician, particularly one asking to be re-elected, has an obligation to answer questions. Crapo, long ago more at home in Washington than in Weiser, doesn’t stoop to answering questions. I know this because I asked him, or more correctly asked his staff, a few questions via email.

The first was: “Do you believe Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 presidential election?”

I also asked: “Why have you not spoken out against the lies and misinformation that have been spread about that election? For example, on January 6 you made no statement at all about the events of a year ago, even while the former president was continuing to repeat lies about the election.”

I wanted to know how Crapo feels about the investigation underway into the events of January 6, 2021, so I asked: “Do you support the House investigation on the events of January 6, 2021?” And “why did you oppose an independent commission (to investigate the Capitol attack) when it was considered by the Senate?”

Knowing that Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican Party and shows every inclination to run for president again in 2024, I asked Crapo: “If Donald Trump were to run again for president in 2024 and win the Republican nomination, would you support him?”

Trump endorsed Crapo long before the senator announced his re-election last week, so I thought it would be interesting to know whether Crapo sought that endorsement and how it came about, so I asked.

Just before the Idaho governor proposed to increase funding for Idaho State Police protection of the State Capitol in Boise – 13 new positions at a cost of $2.8 million – presumably in anticipation of more violent stunts like the militant Ammon Bundy pulled off in 2020, I sought Crapo’s views about the danger of politically motivated violence.

Just to jog your memory, a police officer who testified at Bundy’s trial in 2021 said, “It was chaos,” with six State Police officers “pushed, shoved and battered” by a crowd of protesters. The day before Bundy was arrested, an angry mob stormed into the Idaho House gallery. A door was broken down. Bundy is, of course, seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho.

So, I asked Crapo” “There is growing evidence that many Americans on the political right are willing to engage in violence in the interest of their political positions. Do you view this as a danger to democracy?”

And since the senator has been around for a long time, I posed this question: “Given Idaho’s long history of dealing with various hate groups, including the Aryan Nations, why have you not spoken out against this trend or condemned, for example, groups like The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the rightwing activist Ammon Bundy? There have been anti-Semitic attacks on, for example, the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, but you have made no effort to condemn them. Why?”

At one level, I didn’t expect much from Crapo, the thirteenth most senior member of the Senate. He long ago became a get-along, go-along Republican in lock step with his party’s leadership, voting to convict Bill Clinton and let Trump skate, twice. Crapo rarely utters anything beyond the sterile talking points that GOP political consultants crank out for him.

But frankly I did expect an answer to the question about Biden being legitimately elected. South Dakota’s very conservative Senator Mike Rounds, for example, said recently when asked the same question I put to Crapo: “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And moving forward — and that’s the way we want to look at this — moving forward, we have to refocus once again on what it’s going to take to win the presidency.”

I thought a question about whether Crapo would support Trump – again – might get a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” type response. Or an invitation to zing Bundy or disavow the radical Proud Boys might actually present an opportunity for a career politician to show a bit of leadership, not to mention backbone.

By the way, I told Crapo’s staff I would publish any response in its entirety.

Here’s the totality of what I got in response to my questions:

“Marc, we have known and worked with you a long time in your various roles. But, these questions indicate a blatant partisan bias. Senator Crapo has repeatedly addressed these questions and people know how he feels about these issues. Moreover, to suggest Senator Crapo has not spoken out against acts of violence or hatred – political or otherwise – is categorically false. He won’t participate in such a thinly-veiled partisan effort intended to distract voters’ attention away from the national debacle unfolding at the hands of Biden/Schumer/Pelosi.”

I guess Crapo could have saved time by simply giving me a two-word answer.

In fact, most of his constituents don’t know where Crapo stands on a lot of these questions and many others, because silence on big issues is a political strategy in the modern GOP. Much safer to invoke a “national debacle.”

But you might ask why a guy who has been in Congress for 30 years won’t answer even a simple question, knowing his entire answer will see print, about whether the last election was honest. Why is a senator who has Trump’s endorsement unwilling to talk about it? And when given an opportunity to condemn political violence or anti-Semitism attacks the premise of the question.

What is Crapo afraid of? What should you be afraid of?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some other items for your consideration…

The Long-Term Care Challenge

My pal, Rob Saldin, a really talented scholar and political analyst, is out with a deep dive into the challenges of “long term care” – LTC. Rob teaches at the University of Montana and heads the Mansfield Center’s ethics and public policy programs at the university.

“LTC is expensive — so expensive that it can deplete a middle-class family’s lifetime of savings in a few short years. Notably, the term ‘middle class’ here includes a vast demographic range, from those just over the poverty line to those maintaining six-figure retirement accounts decades after they leave the workforce. To be sure, once individuals have burned through their assets to the point of impoverishment, Medicaid swoops in to pick up the tab. But this intervention only shifts the burden to state budgets, which crowds out other spending priorities.”

Here is a link to the piece in National Affairs.


‘Don’t Look Up’: Hollywood’s primer on climate denial illustrates 5 myths that fuel rejection of science

The cast of “Don’t Look Up…”

Perhaps you have seen the film. I enjoyed it, even as it’s a little over the top. Apparently, folks either love it or hate it. Here’s a good piece on how the film explores some myths about science denial.

“The movie is an allegory for climate change, showing how those with the power to do something about global warming willfully avoid taking action and how those with vested interests can mislead the public. But it also reflects science denial more broadly, including what the world has been seeing with COVID-19.”

Link to the piece in The Conversation.


The Last Time We Had an Insurrectionist President

He was the long forgotten John Tyler, who as a former president helped stoke Civil War. Goodness, history can enlighten.

“Whether and how Donald Trump thinks about his legacy is known only to him, but the rise and disgrace of John Tyler, the traitor-president, should serve as a warning about how insurrectionist presidents are remembered—in Tyler’s case, with disgrace at first, and then hardly at all.”

Here’s the story.


Many thanks, friends. Stay safe. Get your booster.

2020 Election, Insurrection, Trump

Who You Gonna Believe…

In the flood of end of 2021 public opinion polling – most of it dire as to the state and future of the country – it’s easy to fixate on the obvious. Lots of our fellow Americans have answered the classic Chico Marx question – “Who you gonna believe me or your own eyes” – by doubting their own eyes.

To cite just two examples in public opinion data assembled recently by Ipsos/NPR:

  • Twenty-two percent of Americans say there was major fraudulent voting in 2020, and it changed the results of the election. This number jumps to a 54% majority among those whose primary news source is Fox News or conservative news media, 52% of Trump voters, and 45% of all Republicans.
  • Nearly one in three Republicans who are regular political news consumers (30%) say the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol a year ago where five died and hundreds have been charged with various crimes was carried out by Antifa/government agents, compared to 7% of Democrats who follow political news closely.

To maintain these beliefs – a stolen election, a riot led by Antifa thugs rather than violent Trump followers – requires a willful disregard for what your eyes reveal.

What we all saw…

Time and again Donald Trump and his supporters were rebuffed in election challenges brought in federal and state courts. Often Trump appointed judges rejected specious claims of election fraud. Trump lost a case at the Supreme Court where he had appointed three justices. Lawyers representing the former president have been sanctioned and fined for frivolous use of the courts to advance lies about the presidential election.

The facts are crystal clear unless you willfully chose to ignore them.

As for that deadly attack on the Capitol a year ago this week, the first-hand accounts of the savagery and mayhem that have emerged over the last several months when laid alongside the pictures we all saw that day paint a shocking, ugly picture of a political movement resorting to violence in an effort to stop the certification of a fair election. Yet, lies that defy our own eyes have clearly gripped many Americans.

A reader took me to task recently saying, “So you buy into the conspiracy that bunch of unarmed not so bright folks who flooded into the capital, many in costume stole one lap top and left litter not destruction behind was some sort of an organized insurrection meant to over throw the government? Well if so it was the most feeble attempt ever seen in the history of the world.”

The comment, heartfelt I’m sure, is also complete and utter nonsense. I don’t know – no one does – what was in the hearts and minds of the attackers, organized or not, but it seems pretty clear they hoped to create enough ruckus to stop the counting of electoral votes, the only action Congress was engaged in. And for a while they did stop the counting, breaking down doors and windows, injuring 140 cops and taking over significant parts of the Capitol.

Trump clearly hoped to use the crowd to intimidate then-vice president Mike Pence – why else would the mob chant “hang Mike Pence” – to disallow votes from several states and thereby disrupt the Constitutional process to affirm the next president. In his warmup act before the attack, Trump mentioned Pence by name several times, including hoping that his own vice president wasn’t listening to “the RINOs and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”

To dismiss the historic and awful events of January 6 as a “feeble attempt,” or as one Republican lawmaker said, “a tourist visit,” is simply delusional, down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole stuff, but it’s where a lot of fellow Americans find themselves. It is where a representative democracy finds itself.

We must acknowledge there is no chance these folks will find the truth. They are, sadly, and tragically for the country, pathologically attached to lies that are daily disproved by their own eyes. To paraphrase Voltaire, these Americans have been fed a steady diet of absurdities and now embrace atrocities.

As the columnist Eugene Robinson asked recently: “How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?”

Surely a partial answer to Robinson’s question is Donald Trump, who lied himself from Barack Obama’s birth certificate into the Oval Office, but Trump has had plenty of help in the dumbing down effort that has us awash in lies.  

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

Trump will never change. My critical reader will never change. But what about the vast sweep of the rest of the modern Republican Party? What of the once more-or-less levelheaded western conservatives? It’s a hard reality to swallow, but the actual survival of the kind of American democracy we once protected is increasingly up to them.

Forget about the Kevin McCarthy’s, the Ted Cruz’s and the striving clowns like Idaho’s Russ Fulcher or Washington’s Cathy McMorris-Rogers. They have made their bed on a hill of lies. They care about saving nothing but themselves.

There are some others out there who clearly know better and must in their hearts quake at the thought of what very clearly might have been, and what could be. What of Idaho’s Mike Simpson or former Oregon congressman Greg Walden? Are there not at least a few other conservative truth tellers to join Liz Cheney in the defense of democracy?

It’s worth remembering what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said immediately after January 6 last year.

“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally. This was different. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

This year McConnell said nothing about Trump, but attacked Democrats.

Make no mistake democracy’s enemies are on the move. They have momentum unincumbered by truth. Before January 6, such an atrocity was unthinkable. A year later, believing it can’t happen again – and succeed next time – is as delusional as the lies that got us to this point.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest..

Rebecca Solnit: When the President of Mediocrity Incites an Insurrection

A piece from a year ago that is worth revisiting.

“The epithet ‘God give me the confidence of a mediocre white man’ has mostly been used for milder circumstances, but the confidence—in their own rightness as they assaulted the symbolic center of the elected government as that government was engaged in the solemn process of confirming the choice of the voters—was stunning. Of course if there was no electoral college—an institution created to amplify the white men who enslaved Black people, Trump would never have become president in 2016, and in 2020, the Biden victory would have been affirmed and unshakeable months ago, but one of the rites of the creaky old process designed for an 18th-century 13-state nation exist was underway when the invasion transpired. You could argue that it’s because Trump won the presidency while losing by three million votes last time that he felt entitled to keep it after losing by seven million votes.”

Always read Rebecca Solnit:


The Plot Against American Democracy That Isn’t Taught in Schools

A great piece here from Rolling Stone.


Wayne Thiebaud, Playful Painter of the Everyday, Dies at 101

Pancake Breakfast by Wayne Thiebaud

“In person he was a classic of the old American West, a slender man of Gary Cooperish charm and dry humor — soft-spoken, modest, layered, self-assured. Often bathed in Pacific sunshine, Mr. Thiebaud’s art looked at first flush radiant and plain as day. But on closer inspection, his pictures of idealized pies, spaghetti entanglements of highways and gumball machines rimmed in blue halos required unpacking. A rustling of unexpected sadness occasionally crept into the paintings after that initial leaping rush of joy — an unsentimental nostalgia for a bygone era or some long lost love.”

A classic New York Times obit of the painter.


Thanks for reading. Stay safe. All the best.

Insurrection, Trump, Watergate

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It…

It was the summer of 1973.  Congress was struggling, amid tense and often angry partisanship, to understand who was really responsible for the break in a year earlier at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.

The story – quickly dubbed Watergate – unfolded over a period of many months, with details large and small emerging in news reports and, we now know, by leaks from a top official at the FBI, among others. Watergate would emerge as an example of massive political corruption – one of the great scandals in American history.

In those days the United States Senate was led by a flinty Montanan, a former Butte copper miner who became a university history professor and eventually majority leader.

Mike Mansfield was a Senate “institutionalist,” meaning he literally dedicated his 24-year career to elevating the institution he led, and he was always protecting the Senate’s prerogatives and reputation.

When it became impossible to avoid questions of whether Watergate’s crimes reached the White House and were perhaps being covered up by officials in the government, Mansfield acted in the interest of the Senate and the nation.

He went to Republican leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and proposed a select committee to investigate. Scott agreed. Then Mansfield made one of the most consequential decisions of his consequential career – he selected a drawling, elderly North Carolina constitutional lawyer by the name of Sam Ervin to chair the committee.

Ultimately, the Senate vote to create the committee was unanimous, but only after Republicans tried to get a committee divided equally among GOP members and Democrats – Democrats held a healthy majority in the Senate at the time. Florida Republican Edward Gurney – shades of current Republican congressional tactics – attempted unsuccessfully to broaden the investigation to include the 1964 and 1968 presidential campaigns. The focus would be Watergate.

February 8, 1973 – Billings Gazette

Ervin was no one’s idea of telegenic. His fleshy face sported big jowls and a double chin. His white hair was often untamed. His black horned rim glasses perched uneasily on a big nose. Ervin was a throwback, a conservative southern Democrat and dead-end segregationist suspicious of too much government and too much racial equality.

But Ervin also revered the Senate and the Constitution, particularly that concept that no one is above the law. Importantly for Mansfield, Ervin was in his last term. He wasn’t running for anything.

Mansfield surrounded ol’ Sam with what appeared to many at the time to be a lackluster group of Senate second-stringers, but they had been selected with purpose. None had national political ambitions that might get in the way of a serious investigation of serious crimes.

Ervin’s investigation became critical to unraveling Watergate and forcing a presidential resignation.

From left to right – Senators Baker and Irvin, Majority Council Sam Dash, Senator Herman E Talmadge of Georgia and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii

Republicans, meanwhile, selected a handsome, articulate senator from Tennessee by name of Howard Baker to co-chair the Watergate committee. Baker was the son-in-law of the legendary Senate Republican leader, Everett Dirksen, who had operated in a highly cooperative, bipartisan way with Senate Democrats, especially Mansfield.

Still, it was widely expected that Baker would be a loyal defender of President Richard Nixon, whose role in Watergate was always at the center of the investigation. And for a long time Baker was a defender. And then he wasn’t.

On June 29, 1973, Baker asked a simple question of former White House counsel John Dean that came to define Baker’s Senate career. Dean had been fired by Nixon and was now cooperating with the Senate committee.

“My primary thesis is still,” Baker asked, “what did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Baker posed the question believing he was helping Nixon, who had repeatedly denied knowledge of the Watergate break in or any effort to cover it up. He was hoping the question would exonerate Nixon, or at least make the issue one of Nixon’s word against Dean’s.

But Baker did not yet know there were tapes – many tapes – of Nixon’s conversations with White House aides orchestrating the cover up, including trying to get the CIA involved.

All this history is worth remembering in light of the increasingly apparent role of the former president in stimulating many of his followers to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6. No Watergate analogy is perfect, but Donald Trump clearly egged on the attackers, delayed responding to the chaos aimed at Congress and his own vice president, and is now attempting to use every avenue to prevent the fully story from coming out. It’s very Nixon-like.

Text messages released this week to former Trump chief of Staff Mark Meadows – a 21st Century variation of sorts on Nixon’s White House taping system – seem to show that the former president was very involved in events leading up to and including January 6.

Trump’s own son begged Meadows to get the president to do something to stop the attack. “He’s got to condemn this s@#t ASAP,” Don, Jr. messaged.

The turd polishers at Fox News even weighed in imploring action from Trump to stop the carnage. Meadows knows all this. He also knows what Trump said and did. It’s why his contempt of Congress is so important.

One text to Meadows really stands out: a House Republican messaged him, even before several states had finalized vote counting, that Republican legislatures in Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania ought just ignore the voters and name their own slate of Trump electors.

This was an early example of the political weaponizing of the “big lie” that the election was stolen. January 6 was a follow on.

Here’s a way to think about updating Howard Baker’s classic question: not only what did Trump know and when, but what did your member of Congress know and when?

It’s clear some members of Congress were communicating with the organizers of the attack and with the White House. What did they know and when? We deserve to know. If there is nothing nefarious about the actions of members of Congress who swore an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution then so be it, but we need to know.

Most House Republicans, including every member from the West with the exception of Liz Cheney of Wyoming has tried to hamper the January 6th investigation, labeling it “partisan,” and voting to let Meadows and others get away with stiffing Congress. But all that is a smoke screen.

Congress has every right – indeed an obligation – to investigate such fundamental and dangerous abuses.

Congressional power to investigate and hold accountable the executive branch was established as long ago as 1792 and has continued through the Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic, war profiteering during World War II, Watergate and Benghazi.

By undermining the ongoing investigation of January 6, Republicans may be protecting themselves from the wrath of Donald Trump and his most fevered supporters, but they are putting partisanship ahead of American democracy. We need to know what all of them knew and when they knew it.

Meanwhile, it seems worth noting that a detailed Associated Press survey of every single claim of voter fraud in six contested states found fewer than 475 questionable votes out of millions cast. “The findings build on a mountain of other evidence,” the AP report said, “that the election wasn’t rigged, including verification of the results by Republican governors.”

Yet, the lies continue. Holding to account those involved on January 6 has truly become the urgent necessity of democracy.

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Additional Readings:

A few other suggestions that I think will be worth your time…

Nicholas Kristof Wants to Be a Governor. Why Won’t He Talk to National Media?

Actually, I think it’s pretty smart of the former New York Times columnist turned Oregon gubernatorial candidate not to spend any time worrying about national media. He should be talking to the Eugene Register-Guard and the Ontario Observer. Still, this piece does pose some important questions.

Nick Kristof: journalist turns politician

Garret Epps, writing in Washington Monthly, used Kristof’s book – Tightrope – as a takeoff point for his questions.

Tightrope is a terrific book, regardless of what one thinks of Kristof’s proposed policy responses, which include improved early childhood programs, universal high-school graduation, elimination of unwanted pregnancies, a monthly child allowance for families, programs to wipe out child homelessness, and a ‘baby bond’ given to each child at birth to generate wealth as kids grow up, and programs to guarantee a job for any American who wants one.”

Here a link to the full story with some historical context on whether journalists get very far in politics.

Spoiler: It’s rare, but Oregon has some history.


How a Kennedy Became an Anti-Vax Juggernaut

I confess I’ll never understand the anti-vax attitude. It boggles my mind. And there is this.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. strode onto the stage at a Southern California church, radiating Kennedy confidence and surveying the standing ovation crowd with his piercing blue Bobby Kennedy eyes. Then, he launched into an anti-vaccine rant. Democrats ‘drank the Kool-Aid,’ he told people assembled for a far right conference, branded as standing for ‘health and freedom.'”

Here’s the link:


When Radio Stations Stopped a Public Figure From Spreading Dangerous Lies

I have been listening to a terrific podcast called Radioactive. It’s produced by Tablet magazine and focuses on the rise and eventual demise of the 1930’s Catholic priest and radio personality Father Charles Coughlin.

The Royal Oak, Michigan radio priest who pioneered hate on the airwaves

Coughlin was a fascinating and dangerous character. Read this and then listen to the podcast.

“Coughlin’s Detroit ministry had grown up with radio, and, as his sermons grew more political, he began calling President Franklin D. Roosevelt a liar, a betrayer and a double-crosser. His fierce rhetoric fueled rallies and letter-writing campaigns for a dozen right-wing causes, from banking policy to opposing Russian communism. At the height of his popularity, an estimated 30 million Americans listened to his Sunday sermons.’

From Smithsonian magazine:


Bros., Lecce: We Eat at The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever

Finally, the viral story of the week – or perhaps the year. An absolutely hilarious and bitter review of a Michelin star restaurant in Italy.

“We headed to the restaurant with high hopes – eight of us in total, led into a cement cell of a room, Drake pumping through invisible speakers. It was sweltering hot, and no other customers were present. The décor had the of chicness of an underground bunker where one would expect to be interrogated for the disappearance of an ambassador’s child.”

It gets better. Here is the review:

And here’s the Washington Post on how the review went bonkers viral.


As always…have a good weekend. Be safe. Get the booster.