Monday, November 9, 2020

He Never Was Our President

He may have gotten the official votes back in January 2017 when the Congress certified the votes of the Electoral College for the 2016 election.  He may have taken the oath of office on January 20, 2017.  He may have been given the little card with the nuclear codes that he carries with him all the time.  He may have been given living space in the residence quarters of the White House and moved his staff into the West Wing and sat behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, flown on the big plane, ridden in the armored limousine, and heard the band play his song.  But he was never really our president.

He only thought about the people who voted for him or shared his views.  He dismissed out of hand any contrary arguments or discussion, convinced that he was always right and infallible.  Anyone who had a different idea or wouldn’t proclaim loudly their fealty to him was suspect and not to be trusted.  That works in a government of fear and oppression, where dissent is not allowed.  (Ironically, he appealed to and won the votes of a lot of Cuban-Americans in South Florida who fled that kind of government to come here.)  He made it his mission to separate us based on fear of others, knowing that it would solidify his base and shore up his own belief in himself and appealing to the base human instinct of what’s in it for himself.

I’m not a psychologist, and I look askance at those who presume to diagnose from afar.  But as a playwright and a theatre scholar, I have a perspective on how characters are built and what lies beneath their outer actions.  It doesn’t require a PhD to see that we’re dealing with someone who has serious issues with their own self-worth and how desperate they are to win approval, and how they will lash out at those they think are smarter than them or have a natural ability to get people to like them, much less agree with them.  Simply put, he’s a quivering tower of massive insecurity and self-doubt.  Sophocles, Shakespeare, and any number of playwrights throughout history understood it, and it’s safe to say that this kind of character provides for powerful theatre and insight to the human condition.

That makes great drama, but that’s not the way to run a country.  We need — we require — leaders who seek the office not for the trappings, not for the adoring crowds and the rallies, but to work for all of us.

President-elect Biden has said repeatedly that he will be the president of all of us.  It shouldn’t have to be said that the person we elect as the president has to think of all of us, including those who fought against their election and disagree with them at every level.  But apparently it does, and it appears that there are over 70 million people who need to learn that basic fact of how our system works.  It’s a rather sad comment on how far the current office-holder has brought us that we have to say it out loud.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Public Trust

The calls to “defund the police” are growing.  At first blush, it sounds like something radical: how can a civilized society exist without some form of law enforcement?  We have had some form of policing going back to ancient times.  But what occurs to me is that what we are seeing is a demand to reform the police and change the culture that has gotten us to where we are now with growing mistrust between the police and a large segment of the population they are sworn to protect.

What has happened is that we as a society have used the police as the dumping ground for all of the unpleasant and scary elements of our daily life.  They are called not only to enforce the law, but also in many cases to enforce social norms and reinforce prejudices.  The police force has responded by becoming hardened to deal with things they have no training or business handling: medical emergencies, building code enforcement, mental health care, domestic violence, and racial tension.  But that’s not what they signed up for, and that’s not what we should expect of them.  There are other services that we have as a part of our community services that can deal with those emergencies.

On another level, we’ve done the same thing with the public education system.  We have relegated many parental duties to teachers, forcing them to deal with more than just educating our children.  All too often they have become in loco parentis beyond the classroom.  The mindset for many is that out of sight, out of mind, and becoming involved in their child’s education is, either by lack of time or lack of caring, something they cannot pay attention to more than just lip service.

Neither the police force nor the school system is designed or intended to go beyond their stated duty, and dumping our problems on them has only added strains to those who are both untrained to handle things they’re asked to do and underpaid for them as well.  Something has to give, and in both cases, they have broken in many respects.

We can no more defund the police than we can defund the public schools.  Both are in need of reform at every level, and in a lot of places it is already taking hold.  But the most important reform that has to take place is getting the public to understand the role that they have in our society and what they expect from us.  We often refer to it as holding the public trust.  But it is something that has to go both ways, and if we expect them to go above and beyond, we have to give them both the resources, the training, and the trust to do the job.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sunday Reading

Banana Republicans — Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker on how democracy in America is becoming an O. Henry story.

In the early nineteen-hundreds, the American writer O. Henry coined the term “banana republic” in a series of short stories, most famously in one about the fictional country of Anchuria. It was based on his experience in Honduras, where he had fled for a few months, to avoid prosecution in Texas, for embezzling money from the bank where he worked. The term—which originally referred to a politically unstable country run by a dictator and his cronies, with an economy dependent on a single product—took on a life of its own. Over the past century, “banana republic” has evolved to mean any country (with or without bananas) that has a ruthless, corrupt, or just plain loopy leader who relies on the military and destroys state institutions in an egomaniacal quest for prolonged power. I’ve covered plenty of them, including Idi Amin’s Uganda, in the nineteen-seventies, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, in the nineteen-eighties, and Carlos Menem’s Argentina, in the nineteen-nineties.

During the heated Presidential campaign of 2016, the term made its way into mainstream American politics, often glibly. President Trump invoked it in October, 2016. “This election will determine whether we remain a free country in the truest sense of the word or we become a corrupt banana republic controlled by large donors and foreign governments,” he told a cheering crowd in Florida. After the second Presidential debate, in October, Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, countered, “Donald Trump thinks that the Presidency is like some banana republic dictatorship where you can lock up your political opponents.” The phrase has become an undercurrent in the national political debate ever since.

Over the past week, however, the President’s response to the escalating protests over the killing of George Floyd has deepened the debate about what is happening to America. The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi—the third most powerful politician in the the land—described the experience of her daughter, a filmmaker and journalist, when men in fatigues used chemical agents and body armor to force her fellow peaceful protesters aside so Trump could walk to St. John’s Church, on Monday night, for a fleeting photo op where he waved the Bible. On Wednesday, Pelosi bluntly asked, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “What is this, a banana republic?”

The answer is no longer facile. Later that day, James Mattis, the former Defense Secretary, issued a scathing rebuke of President Trump, his former boss. Mattis described being “angry and appalled” at the use of the U.S. military against the American people and the description of American cities by his successor at the Pentagon, Mark Esper, as “battlespace” to be dominated. ”When I joined the military, some fifty years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” he said, in a statement to The Atlantic.

Pictures of National Guard troops arrayed in tight rows on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—a site that symbolizes reconciliation and healing after our Civil War—clad in camouflage, flak jackets, and body armor, added to the sense that America is in the midst of a defining national crisis. Mattis raged at the President personally, accusing him of deliberately trying to divide the country. “We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square,” he said. He went one big step further, demanding that “those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution” must be held accountable.

Scholars and current and former policymakers say that Trump’s historical legacy increasingly appears to be the undoing of American democracy. “We are far too complacent about the durability of our system,” Robert Kagan, a historian at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World,” told me. “So much of what makes our system work is the general fidelity to a democratic ethos on the part of everybody involved.” Trump has proved that “our system has within it the capacity to be subverted,” Kagan said. The brilliance of America’s Founders was designing a constitution with checks and balances to ensure that the instruments of power served the people and the Constitution—and limited the Presidency. “The founders hoped that Congress would be jealous of its prerogatives and the independent judiciary would be jealous of its role, and that each actor would have a certain devotion to the republican spirit—little ‘R’—and defend it against potential threats from a President more concerned for his own interests than the rights of the general population,” Kagan said. “The amazing thing is that, throughout our history, that really has sort of been the case.” No longer, he added. At the direction of President Trump, the core institutions that once insured the daily functions of the state and the peaceful transition of leadership have been seriously eroded.

At the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr overrode his own prosecutors in the sentencing of Roger Stone, a Trump ally. He urged that charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s first short-lived national security adviser, be dropped, even though Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. In the case of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, the President launched a Twitter tirade against Judge Amy Berman Jackson, including the false charge, “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?” Corrections officials, not judges, determine how and where prisoners are held. “If they can do that to protect the President’s friends, they can also be used against the President’s enemies,” Kagan said.

The White House has been doing that, too. In just six weeks this spring, the Trump Administration fired four inspectors general, officials who investigate and report to Congress cases of fraud, waste, and abuse of government funds. At the request of the Secretary of State, Mike PompeoSteve Linick was fired while he was investigating whether the State Department was bypassing congressional approval to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and whether Pompeo and his wife assigned government personnel to do their personal errands. Trump removed Michael Atkinson as inspector general for the intelligence community in reprisal for his role in notifying Congress about a C.I.A. whistle-blower who charged that the President abused his power in trying to coerce Ukraine to take actions that would have benefitted Trump politically. “He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress with an emergency, O.K.? Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you,” the President told reporters, in April. Trump also ousted Glenn Fine, the inspector general at the Pentagon who was to lead a new watchdog organization to police how the United States spent trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief. The President also fired Christi Grimm, at the Department of Health and Human Services, after its report outlining “severe shortages” of testing supplies, personal protective equipment (P.P.E.), ventilators, and support staff crippled the ability to adequately deal with the pandemic and “put staff and patients at risk.” On Wednesday, Scott Dahl, the inspector general at the Labor Department, retired—voluntarily, he said. Earlier this week, Dahl told a House oversight subcommittee about a “significant amount of fraud” in unemployment programs during the pandemic.

The protests have deepened the institutional crisis—and made it all the more visible and worrisome, even to career military officers long experienced in dealing with instability. The retired lieutenant general Doug Lute, a deputy national-security adviser under both the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations and a former ambassador to NATO, told me that he was worried about the implications of Trump’s use of the military for political purposes. “We’re just coming to grips with two decades of overmilitarization of our foreign policy,” he told me. “It may now be time to be concerned about overmilitarization of our domestic policy.”

Lute was particularly concerned when General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dressed in battle fatigues, walked with Trump from the White House to St. John’s. In six years at the White House, Lute said, he had never seen any senior officer wear a combat uniform to the White House. “That was extraordinary,” he said. Even when senior military officials assembled in the White House Situation Room to watch the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, in 2011, they did not wear combat gear. “Intentionally or unintentionally, Milley signalled support for the President’s statement that we needed to crack down on street protests that were largely peaceful and law-abiding, and that Milley would be in charge,” Lute said. The message of intimidation was magnified by military helicopters flying low over the heads of protesters and military vehicles rumbling across Washington. “That’s not who we are,” Lute added.

The clock is ticking on the future of America’s democracy, David Blight, a civil-war historian at Yale, told me. “This unrest—it’s more than unrest, it’s a revolt—is truly astonishing.” In nine days, protesters have taken to the streets in three hundred and eighty cities over the death of George Floyd. “We have to find some way for electoral politics—ending just five months from now—to harness this, or where does it go? What’s left?” He compared the deep political dysfunction in Washington in 2020 to the eighteen-fifties, when U.S. institutions were torn apart and the country collapsed in disunion. “There was no center-left by 1860,” he said. To answer Pelosi’s question, Blight said, “We’re not quite there yet. But we may be on the verge of becoming a banana republic. It was correct of her to ask the question.”

Doonesbury — Tribute time.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday Reading

A Fight For the Soul of Our Democracy — Elijah E. Cummings.

Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat, represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District until his death Oct. 17.

This op-ed is adapted from a foreword that Cummings wrote July 17 for the forthcoming book, “In Defense of Public Service: How 22 Million Government Workers Will Save Our Republic,” by Cedric L. Alexander.

As I pen these words, we are living through a time in our nation’s history when powerful forces are seeking to divide us one from another; when the legitimacy of our constitutional institutions is under attack; and when factually supported truth itself has come under relentless challenge.

I am among those who have not lost confidence in our ability to right the ship of American democratic life, but I also realize that we are in a fight — a fight for the soul of our democracy.

As an American of color, I have been able to receive an excellent public education, become an attorney, and serve my community and country in both the Maryland General Assembly and Congress because of one very important fact: Americans of conscience from every political vantage point took our Constitution seriously and fought for my right to be all that I could become.

This is the personal debt that I and so many others with my heritage owe to our democratic republic — to the 20-million-plus Americans who serve our republic and its values in our nation’s civil service.

And this is also why I, personally, will remain in the fight to preserve our republic and the humane and equitable values at its foundation for as long as I can draw breath.

It was to our Constitution — and not to any political perspective or party — that I gave my oath when I became an officer of the court, when I joined the Maryland legislature and when I was elected to serve in Congress.

It is this commitment that I bring to my work as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the committee that has direct oversight over our federal civil service. From my more than two decades of experience performing this oversight, I can confirm that our nation’s federal employees deserve our respect, gratitude and support.

When people in the leadership of the nation attack our courts, the members of our Congress, our civil servants and our media, they are attacking the glue that holds our diverse nation together as the United States of America.

And when these attackers do so on the basis of factually unfounded opinion, rather than verifiable evidence, they are engaged in demagoguery of the most dangerous sort.

This is why our civil service, committed to maintaining the rule of law and decision-making based on verifiable facts, is so important to maintaining the legitimacy of our government, both elected and appointed.

Under our democratic republic, elected leaders make policy but must rely on civil servants, appointed on the basis of merit, to implement those public policies. We must rely on the expertise of our merit-based civil service if we wish to have a government that addresses the factual realities of our lives (to the extent that human beings can ever achieve that goal).

This duty to find and implement the truth, as I have mentioned, is the province of our civil servants, whether they serve in Washington; our states; or in the law enforcement agencies of our country. This is not to say that our government agencies always get it right or that they never overreach. Human beings, however talented and well-meaning, make mistakes.

As citizens of the greatest democratic republic in the world, we have the privilege and duty to recall our nation’s founding and to engage our nation on the basis of those fundamental principles.

I hold fast to this conviction because the functioning — indeed, the very legitimacy — of our democratic system has been under attack for some time. I am speaking, of course, of the continuing attacks on our elections — from sources both foreign and domestic — and of the failure of too many of my colleagues in Congress and the White House to adequately defend us against those attacks.

For the unity and future of our republic, our Congress must reassert its constitutional obligation of oversight, seeking and obtaining the answers to serious questions of governance that, until now, have gone unanswered. We must perform this constitutional duty so effectively and convincingly that those Americans who support this president and his administration and those who disagree will reach a shared and united answer as to how our nation must proceed.

I remain confident that we can fulfill this historic duty. To succeed, however, we will need our federal civil service and the Americans who serve us there to give us their complete and unbiased cooperation. To the extent that we are required to do so, we will enforce that cooperation through action in our courts, but I sincerely hope that this route will seldom be necessary. Toward this end, I will close with this pledge. In the words of my heroine, former congresswoman Barbara Jordan, from 1974:

“My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, [or] the destruction of the Constitution. I hope and trust that all Americans feel — and will do — the same.”

Cheap Water for a Price — Carl Hiaasen on how Nestlé is ripping off Florida’s water.

Florida, perpetually in a water crisis, once again is poised to give away hundreds of millions of gallons that will end up in plastic bottles on the shelves of supermarkets.

A company called Seven Springs Water wants to renew a lucrative permit that allows the siphoning of Ginnie Springs, a scenic recreational site along the Santa Fe River near Gainesville.

For a farcical one-time fee of $115, Seven Springs would be allowed to withdraw almost 1.2 million gallons a day from a river system where the flows already have dropped 30 percent to 40 percent, according to the Florida Springs Institute.

The agreement would be bad for the Santa Fe and also the fragile Floridan aquifer, which supplies drinking water to millions of people. But for Seven Springs the deal is sweet: free water, which it then sells to Nestlé, the world’s largest bottler.

Many of the Nestlé labels are familiar: Perrier, S. Pellegrino, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Poland Springs and Zephyrhills, to name a few. The company is expanding its facility near Ginnie Springs and needs more liquid product.

For decades, Florida has handed out metaphorical free straws to companies that profitably suck the water from natural springs. Approval of “consumptive use” permits rests with regional water management districts, the boards of which are appointed by the governor.

Sometimes the appointees are qualified and knowledgeable; sometimes they act like tools of special interests. Despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ very public pledge to rescue the state’s natural waters, most of the district boards are crippled by so many vacancies that they can barely assemble a quorum. Like the Everglades and algae-plagued coastal waters, Florida’s famous springs are now in trouble. Too much groundwater extraction combined with diminished annual rainfall have sharply lowered the levels, and introduced harmful nutrients.

Once-pristine Ginnie Springs now carries nitrates from wastewater and farm runoff — ingredients you won’t see listed on Nestlé’s bottles.

The company won’t reveal how much — or little — it pays Seven Springs for the water, but says it’s a caring corporate neighbor that supports conservation causes.

“It would make no sense to invest millions of dollars into our local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies,” wrote a Nestlé Waters spokesman.

Florida isn’t the only state foolish to give away its most critical resource. Citizen groups in Michigan also have been battling Nestlé over its pumping of public springs and aquifers.

The Florida Springs Council, a consortium of 48 organizations focused on water issues in northern and central Florida is among the opponents of the Ginnie Springs expansion. It notes that the Santa Fe isn’t the same river it was 20 years ago, when the original usage permit was issued.

Trouble was evident as recently as 2013, when the Suwannee River Water Management District reported that the Lower Santa Fe had a “deficit of 11 million gallons per day.” Today, the river is considered to be at minimum flow.

The sane response would be to reduce — not increase — the volumes being pumped out. A jump to 1.2 million gallons per day would more than quadruple the current impact on Ginnie Springs.

Rejecting or at least modifying the application seems like a wise and obvious choice for the Suwannee district board. Unfortunately, that vacancy-plagued panel is one of several that the governor seems to have forgotten.

Nestlé has big money and political clout, so the state is unlikely to completely shut off the Ginnie Springs spigot. Still, it wouldn’t be revolutionary to require water-bottling operations to start paying for what they take, as California does.

The Florida Springs Council estimates that even a puny, one-cent-per-gallon fee on the Seven Springs/Nestlé permit would generate at least $400,000 a year that could fund restoration projects in the Santa Fe River Basin, which is fed by dozens of natural springs.

Statewide, the group says, a fee of only 50-cents-per-thousand gallons on companies such as Nestlé would raise “hundreds of millions of dollars to protect and sustain Florida’s waters.”

One thing is certain: If Nestlé doesn’t have to pay to preserve the springs it bleeds, taxpayers will billed for the damage — as they are now for Everglades restoration and man-made algae outbreaks.

By speaking out against the Ginnie Springs permit, DeSantis would prove he’s aware that the state’s water crisis isn’t confined to South Florida.

Meanwhile, the next time you think of buying a bottle of Zephyrhills or Poland Springs, check out the label. Here are a few words you won’t see:

“Thank you, Florida, for all this tasty, refreshing, dirt-cheap water.”

Doonesbury — Rewriting history (click to embiggen).

Friday, July 12, 2019

No Question

Trump caved on the citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Trump announced in the Rose Garden that he was giving up on modifying the census two weeks after the Supreme Court rebuked his administration over its effort to do so. Just last week, Mr. Trump had insisted that his administration “must” pursue that goal.

“We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population,” Mr. Trump said. But rather than carry on the fight over the census, he said he was issuing an executive order instructing federal departments and agencies to provide the Census Bureau with citizenship data from their “vast” databases immediately.

Even that order appears to merely reiterate plans the Commerce Department announced last year, making it less a new policy than a means of covering Mr. Trump’s retreat from the composition of the 2020 census form.

A frustrated-sounding Mr. Trump struck a sharply combative tone at the opening of his remarks, saying that his political opponents were “trying to erase the very existence of a very important word and a very important thing, citizenship.”

“The only people who are not proud to be citizens are the ones who are fighting us all the way about the word ‘citizen,’” he added.

The only reason he’s giving up is because there was no way he could come up with a justification for the question without sounding like a very bad imitation of Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser in Casablanca.  And, as Charlie Pierce notes, the only reason for the question in the first place was to intimidate immigrants, legal or otherwise, into not participating in the census next year, thereby reducing the population count in certain areas and skewing the reapportionment of congressional districts in favor of the Republicans.  That was their plan all along.

And it would have worked, too, were it not for those meddling courts and laws.

Monday, May 6, 2019

If You Can’t Win, Cheat

Last November, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4 which restored voting rights to felons who had served out their sentences.  There were no qualifiers in the amendment language other than excluding those convicted of murder or violent sex crimes, and when it went into effect in January, it had the desired result: a lot of people who had been denied the right to vote began to register.

Well, the Republican-dominated state legislature couldn’t let that happen, now could they?  After losing challenges to the amendment itself before the election, they decided to come up with qualifiers of their own.

The bill could disenfranchise more than half a million Floridians who have not completed restitution payments. (More than 80 percent of fines levied by courts in Florida from 2014 to 2018 had “minimal collections expectations,” according to the Clerk of Courts association, because defendants were too poor to pay them off.) Those with past felony convictions who have completed probation and parole began registering to vote in January, when Amendment 4 went into effect, and voter registration numbers have more than doubled from the same period four years ago. Now that could all come to a halt. “This is clearly an effort to undermine the will of the voters,” says Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “We are creating a two-tiered system and saying how much money you have can determine whether you can vote.”

The measure passed the Florida House last week, and the Senate approved a similar bill on Thursday.

It’s not just in Florida, either.

The move to gut Amendment 4 is part of a broader effort by Republican-controlled states to restrict access to the ballot after voters approved ballot initiatives in November’s midterm elections to expand voting rights and elected Democrats who supported policies like automatic voter registration and felon reenfranchisement. “There is an uptick in activity around measures to restrict voting access,” the Brennan Center for Justice states in a new report, with 19 bills restricting voting access moving through state legislatures in 10 states.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill on Thursday that could curtail voter registration drives by imposing fines of up to $10,000 on groups that submit incomplete registration forms, even though they’re required by state law to hand in any registration forms they collect. The law imposes additional requirements on registration groups, such as mandatory state training and limited time windows to submit registrations, and failure to meet these requirements is punishable by jail time. Civil rights groups allege that the law is an effort to disenfranchise black voters after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000 African Americans ahead of the 2018 election. Shortly after Lee signed the measure into law, the Tennessee chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups filed suit against state officials to challenge it.

The Texas state senate passed a similar bill, which would make it a felony—punishable by jail time—for a voter to provide false information on a voter registration form or cast a ballot when the person is ineligible to vote, even if it’s an honest mistake and the ballot is not counted. The Texas House of Representatives is now considering the bill.

I fully expect the Florida law to be challenged in court, but it’s obvious that the Republicans in Tallahassee and other state capitals where they are beginning to find themselves in a bind for their blatant rigging of the system: both Michigan and Ohio’s congressional districts that were gerrymandered within an inch of their lives by GOP legislatures have been tossed out by the courts.  (In a fitting bit of irony, an Ohio legislator who is a defendant in the case complained that this ruling is politically motivated and will only help Democrats win elections.)

This is just more evidence to add to the steaming pile already accumulated on the stable floor that the only way Republicans can truly win an election — even after they lose — is by cheating and changing the rules.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Reading

A Defeat Or A Call To Action? — David Rothkopf at Deep State Radio.

What do you do when your country breaks your heart? When not once but repeatedly it fails to live up to the aspirations of even those citizens with the most modest of aspirations for it? When the ideals of its founders are left to yellow and be forgotten in archives and museums?

What do you do when the political discussion is commandeered not by those with merely a different ideology but by people who are fundamentally corrupt, evil and valueless?  Who drape themselves in the flag and profess devotion to their God and demean both every time their lips move?

What do you do when their champions in the media are a brigade of third and fourth-rate intellects, sneering, hateful, sanctimonious arsonists of journalism, enemies of truth, defenders of the indefensible?

What do you do when reason is so often confounded and decency so regularly kicked aside? What do you do when liars and thieves and abusers are lifted up and public service ceases to be even the nominal objective of public servants?

What do you when those who seek power do so only to enrich themselves and their cronies and then to tear down the institutions on which this society like any other depends upon to survive, when they attack the system of justice, the rule of law and basic ethical standards?

What do you do when they turn against those they are supposed to serve–women, people of color, immigrants who have come to our country to help build as has been done for generations before ours, the LGBTQ community, and even their own “base” that they ruthlessly exploit?

With each of their victories we drift further from who we are supposed to be, worse still from who we might become. And it is heartbreaking. Shattering. Demoralizing. Over time, the unthinkable becomes commonplace and the unacceptable seems to demand to be accepted.

What do you do then? Curl up in a ball? Weep? Lament it to your friends? Tune it out? Shake your fist? Give up? Or do you recognize that moments like these are when the character of a democracy is tested? Do you realize that it moments like these that make rebirth possible?

At the beginning of this country we faced worse. When slavery divided this country we faced worse. When world wars threatened this country we faced worse. When depression rocked our economy we faced worse. The enemies today are bad, as evil and corrupt as we’ve ever seen.

But they are not so bad that we cannot be reborn of this crisis as we have been so often before. he least among us is better than them. They remind us of that daily. The secret is in seeing their depredations as inspirations, today’s defeats as the start of tomorrow’s victories.

We should only lament our future if we lack the will to fight for it. I’ve found this week to be one of the worst in my memory. I have been heartbroken. But I also recognize this week’s defeat as a call to action. There is an election in just a month.

We must remember their fears of the results of that election–that the American people will make themselves heard–is what made them rush for with this bleak charade of a Supreme Court nomination battle. They know we can win. They expect us to win.

And now we must do what we have to to win. Use how bad this moment feels. Use how angry you are. Use it to mobilize friends and family, to become the activist you never were, to be a donor, to be an advocate, to turn out the vote.

The final verdict on how the Kavanaugh vote will be seen will not be in the newspapers this weekend or in how the White House spins it. It will come on the night of November 6th when we see whether it mobilized America to turn the tide against these enemies among us.

And it will come thereafter as Democrats, now again empowered, have the opportunity to show what real leadership is, what an appreciation for American ideals can bring when it is embraced by our leaders, what the rule of law should mean, the role decency can play in our lives.

Today is the first day of the victory for America that was inspired by the abuses of the Kavanaugh nominating process, of a president who has betrayed the country, of children in cages, of the tragedy of Puerto Rico, of humiliation abroad, and of rampant corruption everywhere.

That’s what happened today. It won’t be reported in the news. But I believe it. I believe it will be seen as a turning point. I believe this is a moment for great hope. But if that is to be true, it is also a moment for resolve and action. Now. Starting right now.

And if we don’t do it, who will?

Doonesbury — Check that.

Monday, June 4, 2018

It’s Not Good To Be The King

When the Constitution was written, the folks who wrote it did everything they possibly could to get away from a monarchic form of government.  They made all the people with power subject to election and to the rule of law, and they split the powers of the government between three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.  That seemed like a good way to do it; no one branch could overtake the other, and there was accountability so that if one got out of hand, the others could deal with them until order was restored.  The few executive powers that resembled those held by a monarch were limited to benign or even restorative abilities, such as the power of the pardon.  The Founders probably thought this would be sufficient; they had the optimistic yet cautionary view that we were inherently good but that firm control via common sense and the ballot box would be enough.

They didn’t take into account the possibility that we would get Trump.

The 20-page memo from Trump’s lawyers to Robert Mueller, written in January and leaked by the New York Times on Saturday asserts that the president has the power to do whatever he wants in terms of controlling the Department of Justice; fire the director of the FBI, terminate an investigation, pardon himself for anything he might have done while in office, and basically assume the powers of an authoritarian without worrying that anyone in the executive branch can stop him.

Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations.

People who have been to law school and have read this memo say that it is deeply flawed in both legal and logical terms.  The attorneys cite outdated statutes and take positions that stretch reason beyond the absurd.  But it is an insight into the defense strategy that will be mounted on behalf of Trump and sold to the GOP base at rallies as black-letter law: Trump is above the law and it’s good to be the Trump.

The only people who can bring an action against the president for violating the law or the Constitution is Congress.  They have done so twice in living memory: the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and the actual impeachment of Bill Clinton.  At those times — 1974 and 1998 — the Congress was held by the opposition party to the president, which means that their desire to prosecute the president was inherently a political one.  This time it’s different.  Trump is nominally a Republican, as is the House and Senate.  So the question then becomes do the people who have the power over the term of the current president believe more in the rule of law than they do in the integrity of their own party, their re-election, and their conscience that speaks to them when they’re outside of the glare of TV cameras and soundbites.

We decided over 200 years ago that we didn’t want a monarch any more (even if we do watch their royal weddings on TV) and gave ourselves and our elected representatives the power to control those who assume they have powers beyond those granted by law.  Whether or not Congress decides to do anything about that tells us more about the future of this country and our path forward as a constitutional democracy than the results of an election.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Reading

They’ve Got Him At Jared’s — John Cassidy on Trump’s son-in-law’s problems.

It was only a matter of time before Jared Kushner’s conflicts of interest reëmerged as an issue. In January of last year, he resigned as head of his family’s real-estate firm, Kushner Companies, and partially divested himself of some of its assets, including his stake in 666 Fifth Avenue, an aluminum-clad midtown office building.

As I noted at the time, Kushner’s divestment was of a very limited and Trumpian form. Rather than selling off his assets to the highest bidder, or setting up a blind trust and hiring an outside expert to manage it, he merely transferred the ownership of some of his assets to his brother and to a trust overseen by his mother. It wasn’t immediately clear what Kushner had held onto, but it turned out to be substantial. The Timesreported on Thursday that “he retained the vast majority of his interest in Kushner Companies. His real estate holdings and other investments are worth as much as $761 million, according to government ethics filings.”

Kushner, who, unlike his father-in-law, can be prosecuted for violating federal conflict-of-interest laws, also promised to recuse himself from any government matters related, directly or indirectly, to his financial interests. It turns out that this recusal was also conveniently limited. Thanks to that same report in the Times, we know that it didn’t prevent Kushner from taking meetings at the White House with top executives from two financial firms—Citigroup and Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance—that lent more than half a billion dollars to two Kushner family ventures in which, according to federal filings, he still owns a direct stake. One is a skyscraper in Chicago and the other is a collection of office buildings in Brooklyn.

Kushner’s personal lawyer, Kushner Companies, and the two firms all insisted to the Times that nothing untoward had taken place. They are asking us to believe that the meetings at the White House were not connected to the loans, which were extended during the normal course of business, with Kushner playing no role in soliciting or negotiating the deals. “Stories like these attempt to make insinuating connections that do not exist to disparage the financial institutions and companies involved,” a spokesperson for Kushner Companies told the Times.

Actually, it is primarily Kushner’s behavior and position that have been called into question. Even if he didn’t discuss any personal business with Joshua Harris, one of the founders of Apollo’s parent company, or with Michael Corbat, Citigroup’s chief executive, it’s hard to believe that he was unaware of the huge amounts of credit being extended to his family’s real-estate empire and its business partners by their firms. In most Administrations, senior officials routinely do due-diligence checks before meeting with individuals representing industrial or financial interests. Kushner appears to have blithely ignored this custom, just as, earlier, he failed to fulfill the requirement that people seeking security clearance complete official forms assiduously.

The issue goes well beyond casual oversights. Not only has Kushner’s presence in the White House made a mockery of federal guidelines designed to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest, it has also raised national-security concerns. Many foreign governments view him not merely as a privileged son-in-law who lucked into the role of senior Presidential adviser but as a privileged son-in-law who lucked into the role of senior Presidential adviser and is desperate to raise large sums of money. In other words, he’s an easy target.

Kushner Companies co-owns 666 Fifth Avenue with another developer, Vornado Realty. In 2007, at Jared Kushner’s urging, the company paid $1.8 billion for the building—at the time, the highest price ever paid for a New York office tower. The property occupies a prime spot between Fifty-second and Fifty-third streets, but it was built in 1957 and needed extensive upgrades. It still has many vacancies, and the $1.2 billion mortgage, which reportedly has ballooned to almost $1.5 billion, is due in February, 2019. Right now, it is not entirely clear whether Kushner Companies is in a position to repay or refinance the loan. “The company hoped to knock the building down and put up another, twice as tall and far more luxurious, in its place,” Bloombergreported earlier this week. “It sought funds from investors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China, South Korea, Israel and France. No investors were announced for the plan, described by many as prohibitively expensive.”

There is irony aplenty here. Kushner doesn’t look or speak or act like his father-in-law: to all public appearances, he is Trump’s antithesis. But much like Trump did in the late nineteen-eighties, Kushner overpaid for a trophy property, borrowing heavily, and subsequently encountered serious financial challenges that became public. On Wednesday, the Washington Postreported that U.S. intelligence agencies have learned that officials in at least four foreign countries—the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico—have been discussing ways of exploiting Kushner’s “complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” An official familiar with the intelligence told the Post, “Every country will seek to find their point of leverage.”

The report also said that Kushner’s extensive dealings with foreign officials have raised concerns among some people in the White House and “are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance.” Last week, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, downgraded Kushner’s security clearance from top secret to a lower level that would prevent him from gaining access to many classified documents, such as the President’s daily intelligence briefing.

After observing Kushner being hit with a security-clearance downgrade and the damaging back-to-back stories in the Post and the Times, many political observers are now questioning his future in the White House. On Thursday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “Jared is still a valued member of the Administration,” and added that he “will continue in his current role.”

It wasn’t the most ringing endorsement, and there is some speculation that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, are, like Hope Hicks, on their way out. Whether or not that will happen, who can say? But it certainly should. Having one cash-needy real-estate developer in the White House was always going to present big problems. Having two of them has turned out to be an outrage.

Voting At 16 — Lawrence Steinberg in the New York Times.

The young people who have come forward to call for gun control in the wake of the mass shooting at their high school in Parkland, Fla., are challenging the tiresome stereotype of American kids as indolent narcissists whose brains have been addled by smartphones. They offer an inspiring example of thoughtful, eloquent protest.

Unfortunately, when it comes to electing lawmakers whose decisions about gun control and other issues affect their lives, these high schoolers lack any real power. This needs to change: The federal voting age in the United States should be lowered from 18 to 16.

Skeptics will no doubt raise questions about the competence of 16-year-olds to make informed choices in the voting booth. Aren’t young people notoriously impulsive and hotheaded, their brains not fully developed enough to make good judgments?

Yes and no. When considering the intellectual capacity of teenagers, it is important to distinguish between what psychologists call “cold” and “hot” cognition.

Cold cognitive abilities are those we use when we are in a calm situation, when we are by ourselves and have time to deliberate and when the most important skill is the ability to reason logically with facts. Voting is a good example of this sort of situation.

Studies of cold cognition have shown that the skills necessary to make informed decisions are firmly in place by 16. By that age, adolescents can gather and process information, weigh pros and cons, reason logically with facts and take time before making a decision. Teenagers may sometimes make bad choices, but statistically speaking, they do not make them any more often than adults do.

Hot cognitive abilities are those we rely on to make good decisions when we are emotionally aroused, in groups or in a hurry. If you are making a decision when angry or exhausted, the most critical skill is self-regulation, which enables you to control your emotions, withstand pressure from others, resist temptation and check your impulses. Unlike cold cognitive abilities, self-regulation does not mature until about age 22, research has shown. (This is a good reason to raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21 or older, as some have proposed.)

This psychological evidence is backed up by neuroscientific findings. Neuroimaging studies show that brain systems necessary for cold cognition are mature by mid-adolescence, whereas those that govern self-regulation are not fully developed until a person’s early 20s.

If the voting age were lowered, would that necessitate changing other laws to bring them into alignment? Of course not. We use a wide variety of chronological ages to draw lines between minors and adults when it comes to smoking, driving, viewing violent or sexually explicit movies, being eligible for the death penalty and drinking alcohol. Although the specific ages used for these purposes often lack a good rationale, there is no reason lowering the voting age would require lowering, say, the drinking age, any more than allowing people to drive at 16 should permit them to drink or smoke at that age as well.

In addition to the scientific case for lowering the voting age, there is also a civic argument. Consider the dozen or so countries like Argentina, Austria, Brazil and Nicaragua that allow people to vote at 16 in national, state or local elections. In such countries, voter turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds is significantly higher than it is among older young adults.

This is true in parts of the United States as well. In Takoma Park, Md., a city that permits 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections, that age group is twice as likely to vote than are 18-year-olds.

Why is higher turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds so important? Because there is evidence that people who don’t vote the first time they are eligible are less likely to vote regularly in the future. Considering that people between 18 and 24 have the lowest voter turnout of any age group in the United States (a country that has one of the lowest rates of voter turnout in the developed world), allowing people to begin voting at an age at which they are more likely to vote might increase future turnout at all ages.

The last time the United States lowered the federal voting age was in 1971, when it went from 21 to 18. In that instance, the main motivating force was outrage over the fact that 18-year-olds could be sent to fight in Vietnam but could not vote.

The proposal to lower the voting age to 16 is motivated by today’s outrage that those most vulnerable to school shootings have no say in how such atrocities are best prevented. Let’s give those young people more than just their voices to make a change.

Redefining Masculinity — Collier Meyerson in The Nation.

I would bet a large sum that my father has seen 90 percent of the films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. And my guess, too, is that he cried during every single one of them. He’s not embarrassed to cry at movies, or television shows, or commercials. He’s a sap, pretty proudly. Or, he’s at least an unconcerned one.

Physically, my dad is strong; he plays lots of tennis. But he’s very skinny. He refers to his legs as sticks, and says they are not of the human varietal—that they more resemble poultry (he’s right, by the way). My dad is overwhelmingly kindhearted, he’s there for me, is super-keen on listening to my problems, and he’s affectionate. Poppi texts me at least three times a day to tell me he loves me and is proud of me. In fact, just now, as I was in the middle of writing this paragraph, he sent me a text that read, “I love you infinity times infinity and best in all of the galaxies and beyond through eternity.” And every time I publish a piece of writing, he sends out an e-mail announcing my new article to his friends, our family, his colleagues, my friends, and also, somehow, my colleagues.

This side of Poppi doesn’t quite fit our country’s definition of “masculine”—which we often assume includes attributes like strong, withdrawn, and violent.

But in other ways, my “sissy” dad is quite “masculine.” He’s got a bad temper, though it’s cooled with age. I remember visiting his office when I was a kid and seeing holes in the wall—when I asked, he’d say, sheepishly, that they were the result of his being frustrated after a phone call or meeting with a client, judge, or opposing counsel. Also, Poppi doesn’t like it when you disagree with him—fair enough, that’s natural; I don’t either. But he’ll interrupt you over and over and over to get his point across, drowning out any possibility of your actually finishing your thought. On days and nights when he watched football when I was growing up, I’d hear him clear across the apartment screaming into the television, “Oh, come onnnnnnnn, you [expletive expletive expletive]” in a tone that frightened me. Nowadays, I stay away from his room when he’s watching his football—and I’m pretty sure that’s why my mom got her own TV in the kitchen.

Reading this, you may think that my dad’s less-desirable behavior is pretty normal for a cis white guy, and I agree with you, it is. (I would know, I’ve dated lots of them.) But when I try to confront my dad, or most of the cis men who I am close to about their misogyny, their responses have always been a genuine—but unwelcome—shock. When I describe their unsavory qualities as rooted in what bell hooks calls the “disease” that is masculinity—punching walls, talking over women, screaming at a sporting event in a tone that should only be reserved for encounters with killers—they’ve looked at me quizzically, angrily.

Last week, comedian Michael Ian Black wrote a compelling and heartfelt piece for The New York Times titled “The Boys Are Not All Right.” Acknowledging, in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers, that “Girls aren’t pulling the triggers. It’s boys. It’s almost always boys,” Black made a plea to interrogate the state of boyhood and manhood in the United States. He writes, “There has to be a way to expand what it means to be a man without losing our masculinity. I don’t know how we open ourselves to the rich complexity of our manhood.”

Black is starting from the same place that many of the men in my life are: that certain qualities of masculinity are natural and immovable, and what’s important is that we expand on its innate properties to include more feminine ones, instead of scrutinizing, or, dare I even say, proposing to rid ourselves of the whole category.

It might sound rash, getting rid of masculinity. But it’s really not a crazy thought. We only have to look back a little over 100 years to understand that, in America, the concept of masculinity was constructed to defend white supremacy and white male dominance over black men and women of all races.

In her seminal book on the issue, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917, author Gail Bederman writes: “I don’t see manhood as either an intrinsic essence or a collection of traits, attributes, or sex roles. Manhood—or ‘masculinity,’ as it is commonly termed today—is a continual, dynamic process.” The first thing we need to do, according to Bederman, is stop arguing that masculinity has traits that are inherent. “Gender,” she writes, “is dynamic and always changing.”

Between 1820 and 1860, according to Bederman, more and more white men were beginning to identify as middle class: entrepreneurs, professionals, and managers. And with that distinction, there came about a new and important gender identification for men, one that centered around civility. As opposed to brutishness or violent tendencies, manliness during this period was focused on a civilized character, holding off on marriage to accrue wealth. And then a man should focus on providing a good life for his wife, his children, or his employees.

Between 1879 and 1910, the number of middle-class men who were self-employed dropped, from 67 percent to 37 percent, prompting another a shift. “Middle class Victorian men were obsessed with manhood at the turn of the century,” writes Bederman. They became “obsessed” with cowboy novels, and hunting and fishing. At the same time new epithets, like “sissy,” “pussy-foot,” “cold feet” and “stuffed shirt, ” emerged, indicating “behavior which had once appeared self-possessed and manly but now seemed over-civilized and effeminate,” writes Bederman. Around 1890, a noun defined as “the essence of manhood” took hold for the first time—now, manhood was called “masculinity.”

The idea, Bederman says, was that being “manly” had a “moral dimension,” and was defined by a dictionary at the time as “possessing the proper characteristic of a man; independent in spirit or bearing; strong, brave, large-minded, etc.” But then, when the economy tanked between 1879 to 1896, and with it the whole middle-class white-male “civilized” identity, the concept of “manliness” shifted again. After that, Bederman says, when men wished to invoke a male power they used “masculine” and “masculinity” to describe it. “The adjective ‘masculine’ was used to refer to any characteristics, good or bad, that all men had,” she wrote. The element of morality had been left behind.

The shift in white middle-class American male identification at the turn of the 19th century was also a way to justify white supremacy. “Linking whiteness to male power,” Bederman wrote, “was nothing new.… during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century, American citizenship rights had been construed as ‘manhood’ rights which inhered to white males, only…Negro males, whether free or slave, were forbidden to exercise ‘manhood’ rights—forbidden to vote, hold electoral office, serve on juries, or join the military. The conclusion was implicit but widely understood: Negro males, unlike white males, were less than men.” But once “masculinity” came around at the end of the 19th century, and black men were fighting for “manhood rights,” a new idea had emerged. White middle-class men were starting to see themselves as maintaining a universal male quality: savagery. But the way they separated themselves from their black counterparts, was to articulate that they had evolved more. Bederman uses the example of National Geographic, which was first published in 1889 and gained popularity “by breathlessly depicting the heroic adventures of ‘civilized’ white male explorers among ‘primitive tribes in darkest Africa.” Similarly, she writes, “Anglo-Saxonist imperialists insisted that civilized white men had a racial genius for self-government which necessitated the conquest of more ‘primitive’ darker races.”

America’s new definition of masculinity was cemented during the 20th century. Though black men gained the right to vote, under Jim Crow laws, which last well into the mid-20th century, they continued to be subjugated by white men, who restrained black men’s economic possibilities and frequently portrayed them as uncontrollable rapists. From early westerns to the action films we watch today, white cis men overwhelmingly were cast as leads in the mass entertainment our culture consumes; guns became a rite and plaything of young white men in our country. And masculinity became a made-up excuse to dominate.

In his essay, Michael Ian Black writes: “I believe in boys. I believe in my son. Sometimes, though, I see him, 16 years old, swallowing his frustration, burying his worry, stomping up the stairs without telling us what’s wrong, and I want to show him what it looks like to be vulnerable and open but I can’t. Because I was a boy once, too.”

Black can’t show his son what vulnerability looks like not because he is biologically incapable of doing so. The block is one formed by habit, culture, and an American history predicated on white male domination—which produced a masculinity predicated on white male domination. Who says we have to hold onto that? It is only with the understanding that gender identification is moveable, malleable, and worth undoing that we can begin to make the boys all right.

Doonesbury — Next up.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

Russian Role Model

Via the AP:

Russian protesters shouting slogans including “Putin is a thief!” gathered briefly around the Russian government’s headquarters while marching through central Moscow.

The lengthy march Sunday by the mostly young group of several hundred protesters came after a large gathering at Pushkin Square dispersed. The rally was among protests nationwide in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s call to boycott the March 18 presidential election.

The marchers headed down Novy Arbat, one of Moscow’s widest and busiest avenues, to the riverside government building colloquially known as the Russian White House. They shouted slogans and some threw handfuls of snow through the high, spiked fence surrounding the building before moving on.

Navalny himself was detained by police earlier in the day.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was detained by police en route to an unauthorized protest rally in Moscow, is expected to be charged with a public-order violation.

That charge could bring a punishment of 20 days in jail.

Navalny called for nationwide demonstrations Sunday to support a boycott of Russia’s March 18 presidential election, in which Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term. Navalny has been barred from running in the election.

Navalny was seized by police Sunday while walking to the Moscow protest. Russian news reports cited police as saying he was likely to be charged with violating a law on calling public demonstrations.

I’m sure that there was someone at the White House taking notes on this and filing it away for the 2020 campaign.  It could come in handy, y’know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Too Close

The only disappointment with Doug Jones’s win in Alabama yesterday was that it was so close.

That’s a difference of 20,715 votes; basically the population of Perrysburg, Ohio.  Put another way, 650,436 people in Alabama were willing to vote for an outlaw Jesus-shouter with a penchant for teenage girls over a barely liberal Democrat.  And there were more votes for a write-in than the margin of victory for Jones.

Yes, Alabama is a deeply red state.  The last Democrat elected to the Senate was 25 years ago, and he was a Southern Democrat, a distinction that made them a party unto themselves, and he switched to the GOP shortly thereafter.  (Southern Democrats were a hold-over from the days of Reconstruction who began to leave the party after the election of FDR and continued for the exit with Strom Thurmond in 1948.  They slammed the door shut after LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965.  They took their robes and crosses to the GOP in 1968 under Nixon’s Southern Strategy and took up permanent residence with Reagan in 1980.)  But one would hope that with such a deeply flawed candidate supported by an equally repulsive president, they would at least think twice about supporting their party’s nominee.  I take some comfort in the large number of write-ins, but a vote for Teddy the Wonder Lizard or Cap’n Crunch was still not a vote for Mr. Jones.

Mr. Jones will have to run again in 2020.  I hope by then he can convince a few more Alabamaians that he’s worth their trust.  But for now, I’ll take the win.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Doug Jones Wins

I love it when I’m wrong like this.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a contest that received national attention, Democrat Doug Jones is the apparent stunning winner over Republican Roy Moore in the Senate race in this deeply red state, according to an NBC News projection.

It took an extraordinary alignment of events, including a sex scandal involving teenagers, for Alabamians to elect their first Democrat to the Senate in 25 years, but they triggered a political earthquake that will be felt far and wide.

With 99 percent of the vote in, Jones was leading 50-49 percent, or 641,173 votes to 631,613 votes.

The apparent result is a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Moore despite the misconduct allegations and in contrast to much of the Washington Republican establishment, which had opposed the Republican candidate.

Moore adamantly denied the allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls decades ago, but the weight of the questions proved too difficult for him to overcome.

Stronger-than expected turnout, including from African-Americans, of more 1 million voters helped Jones.

Yip-yah!

A Ten-Point Lead?

If this Fox News poll is to be believed, Doug Jones has a ten-point lead going into today’s special Senate election in Alabama.

I don’t believe it.

There are a lot of reasons, both statistical and historical, to doubt that Alabama will suddenly flip that far, and the fine art of polling and analyzing tea leaves got the shit kicked out of it last year when every respectable poll had Hillary Clinton winning up until the moment the polls closed.  But even including all the comfort-food results that show Alabamians getting some courage to vote for a Democrat and make Trump look like a loser, it still amazes me that anyone would think that even given the choice between Moore and Jones, the race would be this close.  In any other situation, even in a deeply conservative state such as Alabama, the idea of electing this antebellum caricature of a racist homophobe and alleged child molester would gross out George Wallace at his worst.

We’ll know this time tomorrow.