Friday, August 18, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Okay, GOP, Now What?

Now that we have Trump basically siding with the racists, white supremacists, anti-Semites, and the rest of the raggle-taggle collection of knuckle-draggers who long for the days of really being losers at Appomattox and Berlin, what about the rest of the party he’s the titular head of?

So far no major party figure has stood next to him to support him, but neither have they stood up and called him out other than to make the easy call that Nazis are bad people.  As Charlie Pierce notes:

The problem is that the only way all that works is if Republican officeholders en masse run away from the man as fast as these CEOs have. So far, we haven’t seen anywhere near enough of them doing that. There is a lot of bold talk deploring white supremacy, and the Klan, and white supremacy. That and six bucks will get you a latte.

[…]

Say his goddamn name. Don’t tell me how much you deplore racism in the abstract. That does not make me feel good as a citizen. Tell me you deplore racism in the specific human being who’s now president* of the United States. For anyone whose moral compass still points true north, that’s the proper response. Otherwise, shut up.

There are a couple of reasons why the party leaders won’t call him out.  First, the obvious: they don’t want to be the subject of a 3 A.M. tweetstorm and lose their seat on the couch at “Fox and Friends.”  While being the target of Trump’s wrath isn’t the shaming that it used to be, it’s still something you’d rather not have to put up with on your Facebook page.

But the second reason is that the Republicans still think they can rescue themselves and maintain their majority in the House and Senate going into the 2018 midterms.  No, really; somewhere they’re gaming it out that if they make a token condemnation of Trump and move on to the issues they think really matter such as wiping the record clean of anything Barack Obama said or did and rigging the districts so that every last white Christian male has a two-to-one advantage over the majority of minorities, they’ll stay in office and that clown down the street in the White House will be the target, not them.

So the GOP will now go about its business of dismantling the last eighty-plus years of progress in providing for the general welfare of the people, disenfranchising all but the nice white landowners and as a bonus giving them even more tax loopholes to jump through, all the while letting their whirling dervish spin himself into oblivion and possibly taking the rest of us with him.  It shows a complete lack of moral character to do it, which is why it comes so easy to them.

So, General Kelly, How’s It Going?

Via the Washington Post:

The uproar — which has consumed not only the White House but the Republican Party — left Kelly deeply frustrated and dismayed just over two weeks into his job, said people familiar with his thinking. The episode also underscored the difficult challenges that even a four-star general faces in instilling a sense of order around Trump, whose first instinct when cornered is to lash out, even self-destructively.

I have the feeling that Chief of Staff John Kelly is wondering if he could get back to the good old days of dodging bullets in a war zone.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Little Night Music

I met Jonathan Mitzenmacher when he played Frederick in the Miami Acting Company’s 2015 production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”  It also happened that at the time New Theatre was casting roles for the first reading of “All Together Now,” and he created the role of Fox.  He lived up to way beyond our expectations, and when we did it for the South Florida Theatre League’s Summer Theatre Fest two weeks ago, he did the role again.  Next week he heads off to his freshman year at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he’s planning to major in mechanical engineering.

This summer he participated in the Songbook Academy program in Carmel, Indiana, where this was recorded.  See for yourself what his friends and admirers already know: the kid has talent.

Beyond The Tiki Torches

This is how they really show their dictatorial bent.

Web hosting provider DreamHost announced Monday that is is engaged in an ongoing legal battle with the United States Justice Department over its demand to see records of visitors to an anti-Trump website.

At the center of the conflict is disruptj20.org, a website run by a group of activists who were attempting to build “the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen.”

The U.S. Justice Department, currently headed by Attorney General Sessions, has demanded DreamHost—the company currently hosting disruptj20.org—to provide all information available about the website, it’s owner and its visitors.

On July 12, a search warrant was issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that required DreamHost disclose a significant amount of information that would be stored on the company’s servers. The warrant included a request for all files associated with the site, email accounts the contents of those accounts associated with the site and contact and billing information of the person who registered the site.

The warrant also demanded DreamHost disclose any information it had about people who simply visited the website. The Justice Department asked for the IP addresses of visitors, which would generally provides information about a visitor’s location and other potentially identifiable information, as well as contact information of people who used the site.

DreamHost was required to comply with the search warrant within 10 days of it being issued but has been fighting the broad demands the Justice Department has made. The company filed an opposition motion in response to the warrant, objecting to its requests.

“In essence, the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website,” the company said in a legal filing.

As anyone who has watched re-runs of “Law & Order” will tell you — not to mention anyone who paid attention in high school civics — you need probable cause to obtain a search warrant.  In other words, compelling evidence of a crime will be obtained by violating someone’s privacy and digging through their personal effects.

The Justice Department is going to have to explain exactly what crime they thought was being committed through this website other than being mean to Trump.

Marching and chanting Nazi slogans is one thing.  Trashing the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is something else entirely.

Off The Rails

When I got home last night, Bob called and asked me if I’d seen Trump’s press conference.  No, I was driving home, but I heard the BBC News relay the story of a “bad-tempered press conference” and their network’s analyst say about Trump’s comments about the inflammatory situation in Charlottesville: “He poured kerosene on the fire and danced around it.”  (Leave it to the BBC to be both serious and seriously droll.)

I did get to see the press conference in full thanks to MSNBC re-running it.  Stunned, yes.  Surprised, not at all.  After watching Monday’s hostage video, I could tell that this was what was really in him and all it took was a question from a reporter at a photo op about infrastructure to blow the lid off.

If you didn’t know that this was what truly is what he is, then let me say welcome back from the Delta Quadrant; there’s a lot that’s been going on while you’ve been away.  We’ve got a Nazi sympathizer in the White House.  And I don’t mean a guy who secretly sneaks a peek at “Triumph of the Will” or has a collection of back-issues of Völkischer Beobachter.  I’m talking about a person who thinks there were “nice people” marching with tiki torches to rally to chants of “Blood and Soil,” a popular tune from the heady days of Nuremberg in 1938.  His attempt to equate both sides and blame them equally is roughly equivalent to saying the Americans were the aggressors when they came ashore on D-Day.  And his contempt for both the truth and the people who believe in reality is just the cherry on top of the nutbar sundae.

Charlie, over to you.

All the hinges are gone now. The rails are far behind. The trolley is missing and presumed lost. The president* came down to the lobby of his Manhattan tower, ostensibly to sign an executive order on “infrastructure.” He then took questions and we all went on a magic carpet ride through what he really thinks about the events in Charlottesville last weekend. For three days, whatever sensible people remain at Camp Runamuck have been trying to find some way to run damage control on the president*’s initial, ridiculous non-response to those events, whereupon, on Tuesday, the president* stepped up to the mic and blew all that work into tiny bits. Quite simply, the only president* we have lost his shit so badly on live TV that he’ll never be able to find it again.

It’s been said so many times it’s become like a subliminal hum from under the house: this has got to be the last straw.  It was said after his insult of John McCain as a POW; it was said after he went after the Khans at the Democratic Convention; it was said after the pussy-grabbing tape; it was said after the Russian connection blew open; it was said after he fired James Comey, and on and on.  But when he normalized Nazis rioting on the streets of America, this may be the time the wheels really ran off the rails.  One could only hope, because how much worse could it get?  Do you really want to find out?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Too Little, Too Late

Trump finally said something.

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists,and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in unscheduled remarks at the White House, where he arrived Monday on a day trip as part of his two-week “working vacation.”

He said “anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence” would be “held fully accountable.”

Well, whaddayaknow, racism is evil.  Who knew?  I’m so glad he cleared that up.

Watching the video, I’ve seen that same look on the face of hostages reading the propaganda of their captors, except they’re far more convincing.  (Funny Or Die’s take is here.)

Later he complained that the “fake media” wasn’t satisfied with his too-little-too-late statement of the glaringly obvious.  “Truly bad people!”  Which apparently means that his statement was bogus in the first place and he was pissed that everybody watching it knew it and called him out on it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

This Is Us

Trying to make sense of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday is a fool’s errand because things like that don’t — or shouldn’t — make sense in the true meaning of the term.  The people who organized the march to “unite the right” knew they would provoke a strong reaction from other people; they were counting on it.  And they got it, and I’m probably not alone in thinking that the bloodier it got, the more they liked it.

The organizers called it a march to “Unite the Right,” but it’s not as if the right really wants to “unite.”  The right-wing Establishment controls all three branches of the federal government, but to the folks who paraded through the streets with Nazi and Confederate flag, they don’t think of themselves as the same kind of right wingers that have been elected to Congress and state houses.  The marchers consider the Establishment to be weak and ineffective, and the fact that Nazis and Confederates felt compelled to come up with this demonstration, aside from provoking the outrage, was to register their opinion that the Republicans who dog-whistled and winked and nudged their way into office by exploiting the far-right base have not delivered what the Nazis and gun nuts demanded.  They want to see the immigrants loaded onto boxcars, they want to see the gays and lesbians marginalized and Muslims terrorized; they want to see whatever it is they think will make America great again, and if it takes killing a few freaks and coloreds to do it, well, that’s how they do it.  The Establishment wants basically the same thing but without the violence and echoes of Nuremberg.

Despite a tweet or two to the contrary, the far right was probably just as disappointed in Trump’s limp statement of condemnation as the rest of us were.  They expected him to stand up for them — after all, what about all those rallies where he said he would? — and now he comes out with this P.C. line about “many sides”?  To them, a true patriot would have stood with them and given them the “fire and fury” support that they saw in the campaign.  This is the one who said to “knock the crap out of them,” and cheered when demonstrators got roughed up.  Where is he now? they wonder.

The shock and the horror will fade, but now comes the reckoning.  There will be investigations, there will be the funerals, there will be the TV interviews with the neighbors, and the delving into what drove the kid from Maumee, Ohio, to step on the gas.  But if past is any guide, it will be the same kind of short-term navel-gazing until the next distraction comes along, the same way we deal with mass shootings and similar fits of madness.

It’s common practice for pundits and TV shrinks to say things like “we are all to blame” for whatever is the incident of the moment, whether its a mass shooting or a bridge collapse.  It’s an easy way to get out of offending anyone and letting us move on.  But in this case, that’s not the case.

Every person who voted for Trump owns this.  It doesn’t matter why; whether they hated Hillary Clinton and her e-mails or her laugh or her wardrobe collection; whether they were an aggrieved white person who had harbored resentment against Barack Obama for being the first black president and who was able to pull off two terms without so much as a whisper of scandal and thereby disproving all of their crackpot theories about the inferiority of the African-American race; or if they just voted for Trump because that’s the way to show the rest of America that they too think the way to run the country is through tantrums and bullying.  In the end it doesn’t matter why; they just did.  And now they see what they have wrought.

We heard a lot of Republican elected officials express outrage and put forth a lot of “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, and they felt safe joining the chorus who said Trump’s Saturday statement was less than enough.  But they have been enabling him since the election — some of them long before — and now they’re shocked and saddened as if this was completely unexpected.  All that proves is that they are either too stupid to recognize what was going on or they were willfully ignorant of the shouts and banners that came along with the marchers who goose-stepped through Charlottesville.  They have been to these rallies before.  They have heard the chants.  They were there.  They did nothing.  Now they have to answer for it.

So what do we do?  First, we do not accept that there are two sides to this.  In their worst day of whatever demonstrations the left has held in the last forty years, they never came close to the vitriol and aggravated hatred that has been seen at the average Trump rally, let alone last weekend.  There is simply no comparison, and anyone who says there is is full of shit.  Second, we must stand up to this kind of bullying and hatred and not allow it to be bellowed unanswered.  There must be a firm stand against this kind of hatred and bigotry.  That they have the right to say it is not in dispute.  But that doesn’t give them the license to go unanswered or not be held responsible for the consequences.  If people get fired from their jobs for spouting hate, that’s not a violation of the First Amendment; it’s an enforcement of a code of civil and responsible behavior as a citizen.

Most importantly, we need to recognize that this is who we are.  There are people in this country who would do it harm by trying to remake it in a perverted interpretation of laws and genetics.  It’s not a matter of “both sides are equally responsible.”  It’s a matter of seeing those among us whose values and objectives are dangerous to the country we have become over the last 240 years and who believe the only way to get it to where they want it is through violence and tyranny.  There are more of us who believe in stable government, the rule of law, equality for all, and peace in our streets than those who don’t.  It is well beyond the time to stand up.  That is what we do.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Reading

From Inside the House — Josh Marshall.

The violence of the day appears to be coming to an end. But not before one woman died in the car attack on anti-racist counter-protestors which left many others wounded – some with injuries that appear life-threatening. The other drama unfolding through the day has been the reaction or lack of reaction from President Trump.

Over the course of the afternoon, President Trump has spoken or tweeted a number of generally bland statements condemning violence and hatred. But he has conspicuously refused to condemn the white supremacists and nazis who most Americans would easily recognize as the bad guys in this drama. In one particularly egregious example he condemned hatred and violence “on many sides” – in other words, explicitly equating the white nationalists and nazis with those who oppose them.

Over the course of the afternoon, a number of Republicans have condemned the marchers. Some actually condemned Trump for failing to do so. Late this afternoon, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted a generic but clear condemnation of the white supremacist protestors. It made me think, “Even Mike Huckabee, one of the awfullest people in public life, today can manage this.”

But that reminded me of the fact that the white supremacists and nazis have actually long been something of a gift to politicians who are if not racists themselves then entirely indifferent to racism as a political force in American society. By making themselves the public face of ‘racism’, these morons create an easy enemy to pivot off of. Those politicians get to pay lip service to the notional anti-racist public consensus by denouncing racism in its most avowed and buffoonish form. As I said, in political terms, it’s less an obligation than a gift, an out. After all, who can’t denounce jerks running around with swastikas on their arms or chanting “white power”?

Who can’t? Well, Donald Trump can’t.

Through today I’ve heard various politicians, journalists and public people asking Trump some version of, “Why can’t you denounce this?”

We’ve been here for … what? Almost two years? I understand the impulse. But at a certain point, we’re simply being chumps to keep asking. We know. If we don’t, we should. I’m tempted to say we have no excuse. There’s not. But there is some explanation. We have become as a people, or at least our establishment voices, like family members in the home of an abuser, unable to face the obvious reality of our situation because it is in the nature of living with an abuser that it warps your reality. As I wrote last October, “one of the greatest damages is that we’ve all come to see Trump’s chaotic emotions, violence and tirades as perhaps half normal. I had a hard time divining whether his angry bluster and transgressive antics in the debate would have any effect because we’ve all become so used to it. Like family members living in the home of an abuser our sense of what is normal starts to get blunted and deformed under the weight of abuse. The whole country is damaged in a way that won’t soon lift under the best of circumstances.”

Our sense of reality has been warped. People who refuse to condemn nazis and white supremacists even in the most clear-cut cases – again and again, month after month and year after year – do so because they support those people. This may sound extreme but it is obvious. We are like a woman who can’t admit her husband is an abuser. ‘I provoked him.’ ‘He’s got stress at work.’ ‘It was just one time.’ ‘He said he was sorry.’ You want to shake someone like this to open their eyes and see the reality of the situation. But living with someone with a damaged psyche has in turn damaged them. It is hard to emerge from.

Trump refuses to condemn these people because he recognizes them as supporters and he supports them. That’s the truth. Anything else is denial.

How can this even surprise us? His top advisor ran the publication that courted and popularized the beliefs and actions of these same people. It’s all out in the open. Don’t ask why he can’t condemn them. We know.

The calls are coming from inside the house.

The Bigotocracy — Michael Eric Dyson.

The late, great Gore Vidal said that we live in “The United States of Amnesia.” Our fatal forgetfulness flares when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president. We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.

In attendance was white separatist David Duke, who declared that the alt-right unity fiasco “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.” In the meantime, Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters. His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear.

Such an ungainly assembly of white supremacists rides herd on political memory. Their resentment of the removal of public symbols of the Confederate past — the genesis of this weekend’s rally — is fueled by revisionist history. They fancy themselves the victims of the so-called politically correct assault on American democracy, a false narrative that helped propel Mr. Trump to victory. Each feeds on the same demented lies about race and justice that corrupt true democracy and erode real liberty. Together they constitute the repulsive resurgence of a virulent bigotocracy.

This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.

They cling to a faded Southern aristocracy whose benefits — of alleged white superiority, and moral and intellectual supremacy — trickled down to ordinary whites. If they couldn’t drink from the cup of economic advantage that white elites tasted, at least they could sip what was left of a hateful ideology: at least they weren’t black. The renowned scholar W.E.B. Du Bois called this alleged sense of superiority the psychic wages of whiteness. President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise. They have emptied their ethical and economic pockets in support of him even though he turned his back on them the moment he entered the Oval Office. The only remnant of his leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.

It is disheartening for black folk to see such a vile and despicable replay of history. Facing this unadorned hate tears open wounds from atrocities that we have confronted throughout our history. It is depressing to explain to our children that what we confronted as children may be the legacy they bequeath to their children as well.

It is more dispiriting still to realize that the government of our land, at least in the present administration, has shown little empathy toward victims of white bigotry, and indeed, has helped to spread the paralyzing virus of hatred, by turning a blind eye to what is done in their name.

Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents. If such heinous behavior is met by white silence, it will only cement the perception that as long as most white folk are not immediately at risk, then all is relatively well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could more clearly declare the moral bankruptcy of our country.

Who Will Stop the Madness? — John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

In this mad Presidency, there have been many mad days, but Friday may have been the maddest yet. It began in the morning, with Donald Trump issuing yet another war threat on Twitter. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Trump wrote. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” Later in the day, during a photo op at the President’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a reporter asked Trump what his tweet meant. “Well, I think it is pretty obvious,” he replied. “We are looking at that very carefully, and I hope they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean. Those words are very, very easy to understand.” The reporter asked if any progress was being made on the diplomatic front. Trump wouldn’t be drawn out, but he did say, “We’ll either be very, very successful quickly, or we’re going to be very, very successful in a different way, quickly.”

In the wake of Trump’s declaration, on Tuesday, that North Korea faced “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continued to threaten the United States, Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, having been making efforts to clarify that what matters are North Korea’s actions, not its words. On Friday, Trump undid those efforts. “This man will not get away with what he is doing, believe me,” he said, referring to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “And if he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat—which, by the way, he has been uttering for years, and his family has been uttering for years—or if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

Trump wasn’t done. After a meeting with Tillerson; Nikki Haley, the Ambassador to the United Nations; and H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, he took more questions from the press. Once again, he stressed the dire consequences that North Korea would suffer if anything happened to Guam. He also insisted that he and Tillerson were “totally on the same page.” Tillerson, standing beside the President and playing the good soldier, nodded in agreement and said it would take “a combined message” to achieve a favorable solution. One reporter asked Trump what he could say to Americans who are on edge after all the threatening talk. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump,” he replied, referring to himself in the third person.

He appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself, and why not? The eyes of the world were upon him, and nobody had asked him about the Russian investigation. To the Narcissist-in-Chief, that is a twofer. Moreover, he had an adversary in his sights, and nothing makes him happier than that. When he was asked about a statement on North Korean state television that referred to the United States as “no more than a lump that we can beat to a jelly anytime,” Trump replied, “Let me hear others saying it, because when you say that I don’t know what you are referring to, and who is making the statement. But let me hear Kim Jong-un say it, O.K.? He’s not saying it. He hasn’t been saying much for the last three days.”

It is now clear that Trump has decided to turn a nuclear-weapons crisis that could conceivably lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people into a personal feud of the sort he has carried out with Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, John McCain, Megyn Kelly, Hillary Clinton, and countless others. And Trump had some more warmongering left in him. A reporter asked about the U.S. reaction to the situation in Venezuela, where the regime of Nicolás Maduro is cracking down on opponents and redrafting the constitution to give itself more power. Rather than letting Tillerson or Haley, who was also standing alongside him, field this question, Trump said, “We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option. . . . We are all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

If you haven’t seen the looks on the faces of Tillerson and Haley, the country’s two top diplomats, as Trump made this statement, you simply have to watch the video. Somehow, they had steeled themselves to look supportive as Trump further ratcheted up his rhetoric toward Kim and North Korea. But nothing, surely, could have prepared them for their boss suggesting that he might be looking for a second military adventure, this one in Latin America.

So what did it all add up to? Some observers said it was just Trump being Trump. “Increasingly I think the equilibrium we’re all headed towards is everyone inside the US gov and outside just ignoring what POTUS says,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted.

It would be very comforting if we could all ignore Trump and treat his Presidency the same way he seems to treat it: as a personal odyssey or a reality-television show. Unfortunately, however, he is the Commander-in-Chief of the largest, most deadly military machine that the world has ever seen—it has close to two thousand deployed nuclear warheads—and many of the checks and balances that constrain him in other areas of government don’t apply to starting a war.

Appearing on CNN after Trump’s press conference, Leon Panetta, who has more experience in the top echelons of the U.S. government than practically anybody else in Washington, injected a much-needed dose of reality into the situation. “I understand that this is a President who comes out of the development industry in New York City, comes out of reality TV. I think he kind of prides himself that talking is kind of his business, and talking is the way he appeals to his base, and he’s been able to win election to President because of his ability to talk,” Panetta said. “But when you are President of the United States, and when you are Commander-in-Chief, this is not reality TV. This is a situation where you can’t just talk down to everybody in the world and expect that somehow you can bully them to do what you think is right. These are leaders in these countries. They worry about their countries, they worry about what is going to happen. And they take the President of the United States literally.”

We should never lose sight of the fact that Trump, before he entered the White House, had never held any position of public responsibility. Panetta, who went to Washington in 1977 as a Democratic congressman from California, has served as the Defense Secretary, the head of the C.I.A., the White House chief of staff, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget. “Words count,” he went on. “And I just think that the President needs to understand, and the people around the President need to make clear, that when we are facing the kind of crisis that we are facing now, this is not a time for loose talk. It is a time for serious strategizing as to what steps we have to take in order to make sure we find a peaceful solution, and not wind up in a nuclear war.”

There are some serious and responsible people around Trump. They include McMaster, Tillerson, Mattis, and John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff. But the evidence of this week strongly suggests that Trump is beyond being educated or managed or controlled. He is truly a rogue President.

In a better political world, the senior members of Trump’s Cabinet would be talking to each other and taking legal advice this weekend about the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a President who is unable or unfit to carry out his duties—which in the modern day include the awesome responsibility of deciding whether to use nuclear weapons. “The president alone has the authority to launch nuclear weapons, the only restraint being the advice of senior advisers who might be present at the time of crisis, and Donald Trump has shown repeated contempt for informed and wise counsel,” Gordon Humphrey, a Republican former senator for New Hampshire, wrote this week in a letter to his current congressional representatives. “He is sick of mind, impetuous, arrogant, belligerent and dangerous.”

Since Trump’s Cabinet is highly unlikely to heed Humphrey’s warning, the responsibility to restrain Trump falls on Congress. Under the War Powers Act of 1973, it is Congress, not the President, who holds the power to declare war. If Washington were functioning properly, the House and Senate would have been recalled from their summer recesses this week to discuss and debate Trump’s repeated threats. So far, though, the leaders of both parties have remained ominously quiet as Trump’s rhetoric has intensified. Indeed, about the only reaction has come in the form of a letter signed by sixty-four liberal House Democrats, led by Michigan’s John Conyers, condemning Trump’s “fire and fury” threat.

As many commentators, myself included, have pointed out before, Trump’s Presidency represents an unprecedented challenge to the American system of government. Up until this point, some parts of the system—the courts, the federal civil service, the media, and other institutions of civil society—have withstood the challenge pretty well. But it was always likely that the biggest test would come in the area of national security, where the institutional constraints on the President are less effective. Now, it looks like the moment of truth is upon us, and so far the response has been alarmingly weak. Unless that changes, Trump might well drag the country into a catastrophic war.

Dump Them — Jennifer Wright in Harper’s Bazaar.

With every week, life under the Trump administration becomes more unnerving. The administration is trying to “phase out” the 15,000 trans people in the military, Trump is basically threatening nuclear war with North Korea and Mueller is tapping a Grand Jury to look into the Russia connection.

We live in interesting times, and by interesting, I mean on the very verge of the second dark ages. Or, at least, some people believe that. Other people believe everything is fine, somehow.

Don’t ask me how.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is starting to create a rift, not just between different parts of the country, but between couples. In Florida, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader and the top prosecutor in Palm Beach County reportedly split, in part because the wife claimed that as “a staunch Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump… she felt increasingly isolated in the marriage.” Deidre Ball, who recently filed for divorce from Trump’s former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, also reportedly did so in part because she was “not a fan of Trump.”

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of articles with advice on topics like “How To Survive Being Married to A Trump Supporter.”

They offer advice like “We look deeper than the arguments. We look at each other… at the passionate, committed humans that we are and we find gratitude in being married to someone who cares so much. When the fire of the argument subsides and we are left with only the smoldering embers, we kiss.”

What if you find yourself… not wanting to kiss someone who believes that it is cool for the President to think women should be grabbed by the pussy?

The woman who is kissing her husband over the smoldering argument embers also remarks, “How could I explain how vulnerable I felt? I couldn’t. But I tried. And he tried to understand. And we went round and round in circles. Him, unable to see the human element of my arguments.”

God, that sounds exhausting.

I’m going to save you three years of therapy where you and your partner try to “agree to disagree.”

If your partner is a Trump supporter and you are not, just divorce them.

You do not need to try to make it work with someone who thinks of people as “illegals.” Just divorce them. Those divorced couples made the right choice.

This may not always be possible. Some people may not have the financial or practical means available to get a divorce, but if you do have those means? DIVORCE THEM.

Because if one member of a couple believes the President should endorse police brutality and the other member believes that is balls-to-the-wallinsane, that is not a disagreement you’re going to find common ground on. You can use all the measured voices and positive words you want. It’s not a question of disagreement about the most effective way to load the dishwasher, or even whether trickle-down economics works. Those are opinions that might be altered by showing compelling factual evidence.

Supporting Trump at this point does not indicate a difference of opinions. It indicates a difference of values.

Values aren’t like hobbies or interests. They don’t change over time, and they more or less define who you are. Trump’s administration may have been, for some of us, a time when what we value has become much clearer to us.

So, while you may be able to convince your partner that there is a more efficient way to load the dishwasher, you will never be able to convince them that they need to care about people they are fundamentally uninterested in caring about.

Couples don’t need to agree on everything. Disagreement on some issues helps broaden our perspectives. But most successful couples do seem to have moral compasses that point in roughly the same direction. That’s because one of the best things about being in a relationship is having someone who helps you go out and live your values in the world.

If you saddle yourself with someone who fundamentally does not share your values—and at this point, it seems fair to say that people on different ends of the political spectrum have wildly different values—you’re going to be unbelievably, achingly lonely.

So, just skip it. Get a divorce. It’s clearly not ideal—no one goes into a marriage planning to get divorced—but people get divorced for a great many reasons. “My partner’s views are morally repulsive to me” is one of the best reasons I can think of.

And if anyone says that this demeans that sanctity of marriage, well, just remind them the President they love is on wife number three.

He’s Running — Andy Borowitz on Mike Pence’s plans.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Vice-President Mike Pence is seriously considering running for President in 1820, various sources confirmed over the weekend.

According to several prominent Republican donors, Pence is already laying the groundwork for such a campaign, outlining what he believes are the most serious challenges facing 1820 America.

In a conference call with donors last week, Pence reportedly said that, as President, his No. 1 priority would be to repeal and replace the Bill of Rights.

He offered a sneak preview of a potential 1820 stump speech, in which he unleashed a brutal attack on the Bill of Rights’ author, James Madison, and called for the development of the telegraph key.

According to Harland Dorrinson, a donor who was on the conference call, “Mike believes he’s the right man to bring America into the nineteenth century, just like he did for Indiana.”

But minutes after the rumors were reported, the Vice-President pushed back, putting quill to parchment to call the reports “bunkum and balderdash.”

“America already has the perfect man to lead it in 1820, and that man is Donald J. Trump,” Pence wrote.

In Washington, some political insiders also threw cold water on the Pence-in-1820 talk, arguing that the timing was not right. “Pence’s best shot was 1620,” one said.

 Doonesbury — Booking.con.