Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Long Scandal Ahead

Before you get too hooked on all this, be warned: this could be a long term commitment.

The gathering scandals around the current regime look more and more like Watergate, at least in these respects: they involve electoral politics to win the US presidency, the coverups may lead to the crimes (one of which may be treason) and crucially, that how all of it is adjudicated will test the basic strength of the Constitution and the American system of government.

And like Watergate, it may soon absorb the attention of the American people beyond anything else.  There is news on this daily, that involves possible crimes in potentially various jurisdictions by a growing number of people. In Washington there is a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation that could include recommendations for criminal charges, as well as hearings by (at the moment) the intelligence committees of the House and Senate.  The Washington news includes a half dozen high ranking campaign, transition and White House officials.

Expect the list of all of these to grow.  These scandals seem to have the momentum to explode but more likely to unwind or snowball gradually over time.  The regime is doing its best to thwart investigations and prosecutions (as targeting certain banks in New York with relationships to both Russians with direct ties to the Russian government and to the Trump family and their enterprises, which was being led by a federal prosecutor that our apprentice dictator fired.)  But it is likely to only delay them.

One element that's different from Watergate is Congress. First, Democrats were the majority party in both houses.  Second, there were Republicans in party leadership positions as well as in the rank and file who put country (and the integrity of its federal institutions) above party and ideology.  That's much less true today.

So the chances of the parties coming together to create select committees or to back an "independent counsel" (which in Watergatese was special prosecutor) are slim, at least for the near future.

  But it's likely that there will be plenty going on, some of it in the courts, which will (for one thing) addict a new generation to televised hearings, and of course all the shows analyzing all the dirty doings and investigations.  People in Watergate days were obsessed, and that's long before social media.

My main points here are: it's not going away, and it's all probably going to take a long time.  It seems likely to last for the almost two years to the next congressional elections. Some believe that the congressional Rs are already so disenchanted with Homegrown Hitler that they'll impeach him themselves because they fear losing their elections in 2018, but this seems unlikely.

What happens after the 2018 elections will depend to some extent on the outcome of those elections, and whether Democrats become the majority in one or both houses. If Democrats win both houses, and things unwind as they seem they will, articles of impeachment will be offered in the House.  There will be more than one such article, and they will include using government positions for private financial gain.

The House will appoint a committee, it will have hearings, it will winnow down the articles of impeachment to the strongest few.  When this happened v. Nixon, and it became clear that there were overwhelming votes in the House to impeach and in the Senate to convict, Nixon abruptly resigned.

So expect to stay tuned...until say late 2019.

That of course is something of a best case scenario.  We may not have the same federal system of government by then.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


“This increasingly intelligent, fast-moving civilization needs to be applying some of its intelligence to things that change slowly...If we are constantly tending to the immediate day-to-day problems, we’ll lose that sense of the long term, and then we could be really sorry.”
Stewart Brand

from an interview in The Sun Magazine, quoted in the 40th anniversary issue, 2014.

Brand's comment applies to many things, but most urgently to our actions against the natural world that sustains us.  Decisions today can impoverish the future, and make our descendants really sorry.

But there is also the natural world's today, its recurrences and changes fast and slow...Today here is predicted to be another sunny--well, non-rainy--day.  Among rainy days to follow...This by the way is likely not the first photo on the Internet of the tulips in our front yard.  I saw a young woman bend to snap a picture of them with her phone the other day...But these are mine.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Point

The cultural divide (if that's what it is) was never clearer to me than in these paragraphs from Edward Ball's article, "The Mind of Dylann Roof" in the New York Review of Books, March 23, 2017.  (Though NYRB offers free access to a lot of articles, this one beyond the first few paragraphs requires subscription.)  Who is Dylann Roof?  See paragraph 3.

"Guns are embedded in South Carolina culture, with every attempt at firearm regulation trampled by the state legislature. Fathers give their sons, and some daughters, guns in rites of passage... 
This is cheaper than...

Dylann Roof got his gun. His father gave him money for it on his twenty-first birthday. “Happy Birthday! Here is $400 for the gun and the concealed carry permit,” the card read.

I went to the gun warehouse that advertised AR-15s to see the pistol Roof used for the massacre of nine African-Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Palmetto State Armory, in the Charleston suburb of Mt. Pleasant, is the size of a big box store. It was previously a supermarket. (The company’s motto, on its logo, is Desperta Ferro—“Awake the Iron.”) The idea that a young man shops for guns in a 40,000-square-foot store with Van Halen playing on the ceiling speakers is, in this part of the US, unremarkable.

In the middle aisles are ammunition, gun sights, accessories, gun cases, and targets—bull’s-eyes, plus targets in the shape of men, like a guy in a hoodie. On the left side of the store are racks and racks of rifles, shotguns, and assault weapons, propped like rakes, by the hundreds. And in dozens of locked glass cases, like jewelry, the handguns.

I walk along one hundred yards of glass cabinets, past the Smith & Wesson case, the Browning case, past Springfield, Sig Sauer, Kemper Pistol, Uberti, Baer, Beretta, and arrive at the Glocks: engineered in Austria, manufactured in Marietta, Georgia. Roof used a Glock 41, a .45 caliber gun that feels like artillery in the hand—black, nine inches long, thirty-six ounces loaded.

“That’s the big daddy,” says the salesman, “for target and home defense. Holds thirteen rounds, strong recoil.” The salesman is a small man with a tenor voice, which he throws an octave lower to assist in male bonding. “I have a Glock 36”—he pulls back his jacket to show the holstered gun—“smaller, better for concealed carry.”

Roof added a laser sighting to his Glock, which throws a red dot where the shot will land, and he used hollow point bullets. Hollow points are more lethal. When one hits a person, body fluids enter the tip and cause the metal slug to spread and deform into a spiked wheel, which continues to progress, shredding internal organs. They cost about seventy-five cents each, twice the cost of a standard bullet."

We'd like to believe that the gun culture is primarily about "sport," either target-shooting or some traditional practice of hunting, within the law and with respect.  But this excerpt makes clear that "concealed carry," targets shaped as men and especially the hollow point bullets, have nothing to do with either image of sport.

Hollow point bullets, which have no function other than to shred the internal organs of human beings, sell for seventy-five cents.  You can't get a Milky Way for that.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

President Envy

Valentine's Day photo by Michelle Obama
Mindful of my responsibilities to keep readers informed on the Obamas, I note this piece on their recent activities.

 According to this story, it's a lot of decompress and family, while nudging ahead the next projects: presidential library, memoirs and the effort President Obama announced before he left office, to work on getting Dems elected to state legislatures and state houses in time to prevent the Rs from gerrymandering even more congressional districts to their liking with the 2020 Census.

In this last effort President Obama is getting some backlash help from the apprentice dictator now in the White House, whose regime is prompting huge new interest in Democrats exploring the task of running for office.

Meanwhile Homemade Hitler has been regularly and outrageously attacking President Obama, instead of doing what most new occupants do, which is seek out counsel of former Presidents, especially the most recent.  His vulgar ferocity unmasks his envy.

It reminds me of Richard Nixon's envy and resentment of JFK and the Kennedys in general, including envy and resentment of their popularity, and the affection the American public had for them.  Nixon took it to psychotic levels, feeding the paranoia that sent him down the road now known as Watergate.

Add to that the well-known R disease, the Obama Derangement Syndrome, and Homemade Hitler's blatant delusions of grandeur (claiming inaugural crowds exceeding Obama's when in fact they were clearly a small fraction of either Obama Inaugural, etc.) as well as President Obama's continuing popularity versus the tanking poll numbers for HH, and this could become more than a sideshow.