Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Reading

Charles P. Pierce — It Didn’t Start With Trump.

Joe Biden kicked up a fuss the other day by saying something…un-smart. (Ex-tree! Ex-tree! Read allaboutit!) He suggested that the current president* is a historical one-off and that, once we are rid of him and have fumigated the White House thoroughly, the normal routine of governing the country will resume and everybody can have drinks with each other at the end of the day. If there is one issue that desperately needs litigating in the Democratic Party’s primary process it is this:

Resolved: this presidency* is the logical outcome of 40 years of modern conservatism and its effect on the Republican Party. If it wasn’t this guy, it would’ve been somebody else.

It is pointless for any Democratic candidate to run for any office without acknowledging this fact. We’ve been banging this tin drum around the shebeen here since it opened, but not enough people have embraced the truth of it. (An aside: I really like some of my Never Trump brethren, but they should go back to their own party and clean out the stables. During an election year, and especially during the Democratic primaries, as far as I’m concerned, they all can take a seat.) The problem is the party, and what it’s become.

The party is the problem, because of what it’s become—a vehicle for bigotry, religious fanaticism, rigged elections, retrograde social policies, renegade plutocracy, staggering wealth inequality, scientific ignorance, reflexive stupidity, violent populism, white supremacy, and a view of the American electorate that is all switch and no bait. (Did I miss anything?) Three times since 1981, the Republicans have produced a president who basically embodied all of these things, just to varying degrees. Ronald Reagan played fast and loose with the truth; is that business about trees causing air pollution really any nuttier than whatever it was that El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago tweeted at 5 a.m. this morning? George W. Bush launched a war on false pretenses and made this a nation that tortures people and is proud of it. Is that any better than what’s going on at the border now? The question isn’t how the Republicans produced this particular disaster of a president*. The question is what took them so long.

And it is a root and branch thing, too. The federal judiciary is salted thick now with judges who will reinforce in the law all that is destructive in conservative politics. That Alabama state legislature that passed that horrific assault on women’s rights? You watch. At least two of those cats will be in Congress within the next decade. These people and these policies have something close to an unbreakable lock on the United States Senate. And there is no sign within the Republican power elite that anyone is willing or able to control what the party has become. There’s no Frankenstein, hauling his ass over the polar ice to chase down the monster that has escaped the lab.

The only possible way to change the Republican Party is to force it to answer for itself, over and over again. One of the biggest mistakes ever made in American politics, as the redoubtable Driftglass reminds us almost daily, was the Democratic Party’s blunder in letting the Republican Party off the hook for the various catastrophes wrought by the administration of C-Plus Augustus. Iraq, Katrina, and the Economic Collapse should have been hung around Republican necks in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Democratic politicians had to talk for 20 years about the mannequin the Republicans made out of George McGovern, whom Bobby Kennedy once called the most decent man in the Senate.

This cannot be allowed to happen again. If a Democrat is elected in 2020, that person should use all the powers of the office to demonstrate once and for all that the prion disease afflicting the Republicans now has reached terminal stage and that the GOP is a mad dog, snapping at phantoms in midair, and endangering the public health and welfare. Mitch McConnell should be made an object of anger and ridicule, and that work should come from the top. The mad dog is at the door.

Can A Fetus Get A Passport? — Carliss Chatman in the Washington Post speculates on the legal ramifications of granting a fetus full personhood.

Alabama has joined the growing number of states determined to overturn Roe v. Wade by banning abortion from conception forward. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act, as the new statute is called, subjects a doctor who performs an abortion to as many as 99 years in prison. The law, enacted Wednesday, has no exceptions for rape or incest. It redefines an “unborn child, child or person” as “a human being, specifically including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”

We ought to take our laws seriously. Under the laws, people have all sorts of rights and protections. When a state grants full personhood to a fetus, should they not apply equally?

For example, should child support start at conception? Every state permits the custodial parent — who has primary physical custody of the child and is primarily responsible for his or her day-to-day care — to receive child support from the noncustodial parent. Since a fetus resides in its mother, and receives all nutrition and care from its mother’s body, the mother should be eligible for child support as soon as the fetus is declared a person — at conception in Alabama, at six weeks in states that declare personhood at a fetal heartbeat, at eight weeks in Missouri, which was on the way to passing its law on Friday, but at birth in states that have not banned abortion.

And what about deportation? Can a pregnant immigrant who conceived her child in the United States be expelled? Because doing so would require deporting a U.S. citizen. To determine the citizenship of a fetal person requires examination of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which declares, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The word “born” was not defined by the drafters. Presumably, they intended the standard dictionary definition: brought forth by birth. Our dates of birth are traditionally when our lives begin; we do not celebrate our dates of conception or the date of our sixth week in utero. But in states with abortion bans, “born” takes on new meaning. Now legislatures assign an arbitrary time during gestation to indicate when life, personhood and, presumably, the rights that accompany these statuses take hold. This grant of natural personhood at a point before birth brings application of the 14th Amendment into question and may thus give a fetus citizenship rights — but only in those states. There are no laws that allow the United States to deny citizenship rights to a natural-born citizen merely because they reside with, or in, a noncitizen.

Detaining any person without arraignment or trial violates the Constitution and international human rights laws. A fetus has not committed a crime, not been arraigned or charged, not weathered a trial by a jury of its peers, not had the opportunity to confront its accuser. These laws redefining personhood surely mean that a pregnant woman cannot be incarcerated, as doing so requires confining a second person without due process.

The Alabama state Senate passed the country’s most restrictive abortion legislation May 14 that could set a precedent for other legislative bodies.

If personhood begins in utero, a fetus will need a name and a Social Security number to begin exercising private rights and using public resources. A Social Security number is necessary to claim a child on taxes. It is also a requirement to act on behalf of a child privately, like opening a bank account, buying savings bonds or obtaining insurance coverage. Typically, parents apply for a Social Security number when they obtain a birth certificate, but if states declare that personhood begins at some earlier arbitrary point in time, they will need to provide evidence, perhaps through a life certificate, that this new person exists and resides in their state. Once the life is established, can a mother insure a six-week fetus and collect if she miscarries? Will the tax code be adjusted in these states to allow parents to claim their unborn children as dependents at conception? If so, can a woman who suffers more than one miscarriage in a fiscal year claim all of her children?

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution requires a census every 10 years to count all persons residing within the United States. If a fetus is granted personhood, it should be included in the count. The census currently asks about the age and date of birth of each household resident. Will it now include the date of conception in select states so that fetuses may be counted? There is the potential to unfairly skew census data and disproportionately apportion representatives and resources to those states.

These questions highlight the unintended and potentially absurd consequences of sweeping abortion bans. At the heart of the issue is how the 14th Amendment’s definitions of personhood and citizenship should be applied. States have been allowed to define the personhood of unnatural creatures — such as corporations — since very early in our nation’s history. In exchange for this freedom, states are not permitted to go back on their deal. In other words, once personhood rights are granted, a state may not deny life, liberty or property without due process, nor may a state deny equal protection under the law. States have never had the right to define the personhood of people. This was a subject — influenced either by place of birth or by complying with immigration and naturalization requirements — for the Constitution and federal law. State grants of natural personhood challenge this norm.

When states define natural personhood with the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, they are inadvertently creating a system with two-tiered fetal citizenship. This is because Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey create a federal floor for access to the right to choose — a rule that some ability to abort a fetus exists in the United States. If these cases are overturned, that eliminates only the federal right to abortion access. Overturning Roe would not prohibit a state from continuing to allow access. In a post-Roe world, in states like New York that ensure the right to choose through their constitutions and statutes, citizenship will begin at birth. In states that move the line to define life as beginning as early as conception, personhood and citizenship will begin as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant.

Trying to define citizenship and personhood based on the laws of each state creates some far-fetched and even ridiculous scenarios. If we follow that logic, we’ll tie our Constitution into a knot no court can untangle.

Doonesbury — House Rules.

Friday, April 19, 2019

From Here On Out

Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker:

In the most memorable scene in the most anticipated government report in recent history, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, takes us inside the Oval Office on May 17, 2017. President Trump, having fired the F.B.I. director in an apparent effort to shut down the investigation of him and his 2016 campaign, was in the middle of interviewing candidates for the new vacancy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, much to the President’s fury, stepped out of the room to take a phone call. He returned with bad news: his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, had appointed Mueller to be a special counsel and conduct an independent investigation. Russiagate would live on. Trump “slumped” over in his chair, according to the report. “Oh, my God, this is the end of my Presidency,” he said. “I’m fucked.”

For now, at least, it appears that he was wrong. The appointment of Mueller did not lead to the end of Trump’s Presidency. Not yet, and probably not ever. The release of the special counsel’s report, on Thursday, showed that Mueller did not turn up conclusive evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians who interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy. But the report’s belated publication, almost four weeks to the day after Mueller submitted it to Attorney General William Barr, is hardly the “complete and total exoneration” that Trump initially claimed it was and that Barr misleadingly and incompletely portrayed to the country. We knew that wasn’t the case the minute Trump said it.

What we didn’t know until Thursday, when we finally saw the four-hundred-and-forty-eight-page document, is how much evidence Mueller had amassed about the President, panicked and in crisis mode, trying to shut down and block the investigation. The report documents ten different incidents that raise questions about the President’s behavior. Was it obstruction of justice? The Mueller report concluded (albeit in legalistic and unclear language) that that is a matter for Congress to decide. And Congress, as a matter of political calculation and senatorial math, remains unlikely to pursue the question to its bitter end.

Whatever happens, and for however long the Trump regime lasts, be it until 2021 or 2025, it will be scarred, tarred, and broken by the Mueller report, redacted or not, or whether or not it winds up as a series on Netflix.  History will prove that how Trump got to office and how he dealt with the aftereffects will overshadow and skew anything he does, and just as Watergate will forever be the tagline and epitaph for Richard Nixon, not to mention the people who worked with and for him, the story of Russian meddling and how the Trump regime responded to it will be the first line in its obituary.

And it’s all his own doing.  The only reason he’s not under indictment for collusion is that his campaign couldn’t get their act together to do it right.  As for obstruction of justice, it’s certainly not for the lack of trying.

So despite all the crowing and calls to move on from the base and the Wormtongues at Fox, Trump called it: he’s fucked.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

On The Roof Of Notre-Dame

Lauren Collins writes in The New Yorker about being on the roof of the cathedral just weeks ago.

Seeing the spire of Notre-Dame split like a pencil, you wanted, honestly, to be sick. “La flèche s’est effondrée” (“The spire has collapsed”) was how they said it—on TV, on the radio, on Twitter—in French. “La flèche” also means “arrow.” That seemed fitting: Notre-Dame’s peak was a standby of Paris wayfinding, but it also pointed to the sky, to the realm of creators and destroyers who, on a whim, could seize a city on a Monday night. To Victor Hugo, the Paris skyline was “more jagged than a shark’s jaw, upon the copper-colored sky of evening.” Now there was a smoking void. The falling arrow seemed to be pointing to some kind of reckoning, to some bigger thing than the construction accident that early reports suggested might have been at fault for the fire. The omniscient of the Internet told us not to fret, that cathedrals had been built and burned before. But Parisians watched with the supplicant helplessness of the ages, singing hymns on their knees as the firefighters battled to save the north belfry on the second day of Holy Week.

The diocese of Paris had recently begun a hundred-and-fifty-million-euro restoration, which was to have been carried out over the next ten years. The façade of the cathedral was cleaned up in 2000, but the rest of its exterior was in dire shape. Flying buttresses were giving way; erosion had blunted the pinnacles into melting candles. In some places, the limestone was so friable that you brushed a finger against it and it ran like sand through an hourglass. In others, missing elements had been replaced by plywood and PVC pipe. The spire’s lead covering was cracked, and water had damaged the wooden structure that underlaid it.

Late on Monday night, I called Olivier Baumgartner, a master technician at a company called SOCRA, which specializes in the restoration of historic monuments. Baumgartner and a colleague, Alexandre Decaillot, had spent a week working at the cathedral, removing copper statues for restoration offsite. “I’m completely nauseated,” Baumgartner told me. He added, of the effort to restore the cathedral, “In wanting to give her a second youth, we have perhaps destroyed her.”

I met Baumgartner on the roof of the cathedral in late March, when I went to see how the renovation was coming along. He and Decaillot had been at Notre-Dame for almost a week, dismantling the copper statues of the twelve disciples that the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc installed around the cathedral’s spire sometime after 1843. The men were wearing hard hats and cobalt-blue jumpsuits. Scaffolding rose around them. Decaillot was carrying the apostle Andrew’s head, which he had just separated from its base with a blowtorch. The head was heavy, so Decaillot held it upside down and face in, with its nose poking into his belly. Then he turned the head around and stuck a hand into its hollow neck, like a puppeteer. Saint Andrew had a mournful look. Streaks of verdigris ran from his eyes to his beard, giving the impression that he’d been crying for a hundred and sixty years.

Decaillot and Baumgartner had been deployed to Versailles (fixing the marble in the Hall of Mirrors) and Mont Saint-Michel (re-gilding the archangel Gabriel and putting him back on top of the church with the aid of a helicopter). Even so, they were discreetly thrilled to be spending their workdays in the gargoylesphere. From where they were standing, you could see the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, the mysteriously lopsided towers of Saint-Sulpice.

Fabuleux,” Baumgartner said.

C’est la chance,” Decaillot replied.

Decaillot and Baumgartner finished work on the statues on Thursday. They were looking forward to going back to Notre-Dame in a few weeks, to take down the rooster that perched on top of the spire. Tonight I realized that we may have been some of the last people to stand there. I remember seeing a pigeon that had made its nest in the flat of a gargoyle’s neck. I got up close to a clock that, I was amazed to learn, was wound every Thursday morning. The job site seemed clean and well organized—there was a shower cabin where, before descending, each worker was required to wash off toxic lead, untold quantities of which were released tonight into the atmosphere—but I was amazed at how fragile everything was, and how intimate its upkeep. The cathedral was the work of people, not machines.

Baumgartner has also been working on the renovation of the Samaritaine department store, just across the river from Notre-Dame. There, he said, private firemen patrol the job site as a preventive measure. But that would have been impossible at Notre-Dame, due to its architecture. “There’s no such thing as zero risk,” Baumgartner said.

As of late Monday evening, the western façade of the cathedral—the twin bell towers, the Portal of Judgment—appeared to have been saved. “The worst has been avoided,” the French President, Emmanuel Macron, said on the scene. For Parisians, Macron said, Notre-Dame was “the epicenter of our lives.” He vowed to rebuild and said that a national fund to do so would be launched on Tuesday.

That morning on the roof, Decaillot and Baumgartner wrapped Saint Andrew’s head in bubble wrap, sealing it with orange tape. They put it in a wooden crate where his brethren—along with four smaller sculptures depicting symbols of the Evangelists—were waiting.

The saints’ bodies were joined with their heads last week, at the artisans’ workshop in Périgueux. They are the city’s sentries, its wayposts, the bombers of a billion photos, the inhabitants of an arrondissement in the sky. They, at least, are safe.

Photo from Sipa/AP.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Reading

Dr. King’s Warning — Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Photo by Morton Broffman/Getty Images

For the first time since Congress passed legislation to make the third Monday of January a national holiday to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the National Mall—including the memorial dedicated to King’s honor—is closed due to President Trump’s insistence that Congress submit to his demand for a national monument to racism and fear. We must be clear that this is the impasse we face. Democrats cannot be blamed for failing to compromise.

On the opening day of the 116th Congress, Democratic leadership in the House took up bipartisan legislation to reopen the Congress that their colleagues in the Senate had already compromised to approve. Only one thing kept 800,000 federal employees from receiving their paychecks this past week: the refusal of Trump and his congressional enablers to consider that legislation.

Fifty-one years ago, Dr. King and the Poor People’s Campaign threatened to bring the federal government to standstill in order to demand that it serve everyone in America’s multi-ethnic democracy. In 2019, President Trump has shuttered the government to demand that we build a bulwark against the browning of America.

This is, as he promised it would be, Trump’s shutdown. But the president is not acting alone. Congressional Republicans who have been unwilling to stand up to the him for two years created the conditions for this present crisis. And all along the way, Trump’s white evangelical boosters have offered their blessing. Defending Trump on Fox News, the Rev. Robert Jeffress argued recently that Trump’s wall cannot be immoral because Heaven itself has walls. He did not mention the Bible’s testimony that Heaven’s gates are always open.

Though most religious leaders are not Trumpvangelicals like Jeffress, we must recognize the complicity of so-called moderates in a moment of crisis if we are to honor the memory of Dr. King. While most people today recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as both a great American and a great preacher, we would do well to remember that he was not affirmed by a majority of Christian leaders in his own day, black or white.

When we celebrate King, it is easy to conjure the image of a Klan preacher spewing hatred against the civil-rights movement, just as Trumpvangelicals offer a religious blessing to Trump’s white nationalism today. But segregationist preachers were not the only religious resistance to King’s efforts for systemic justice in America. Dr. King’s own denomination, the National Baptist Convention, pushed him out along with other Baptist preachers who insisted on the tactic of nonviolent direct action. Then as now, the opposition to reconstruction of American democracy claimed the moral narrative in our common life.

Dr. King objected—and his polemical response is what we remember half a century later. But the fact that the ecumenical leadership of the faith community in Alabama at the time felt self-assured in making this statement is a testimony to how prevalent their political “realism” was across theological traditions.

We must not deceive ourselves. Even as we gather in churches, synagogues, community centers, and university halls across America to honor the legacy of Dr. King this weekend, the so-called moderates’ call for compromise is drowning out King’s insistence that we cannot submit to the terms of white supremacy. Trump’s immoral demand for an unnecessary wall is an effort to concretize every lie that has been told about immigrants by this administration. Such a wall would be as poisonous to our common life as the “whites only” signs in 1960s Birmingham were to the citizens Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came to support in their campaign to tear down Jim Crow.

King understood that whenever we compromise with a lie about who people are, we empower the political forces that have exploited our nation’s divisions to cling to power. The same politicians who want a wall today are also blocking voting rights and the expansion of healthcare to all Americans; they are the same people who have deregulated corporate polluters and denied climate science—the same ones who insist on increasing investment in the war economy while slashing our nation’s safety net and denying workers the right to earn a living wage.

We must be clear: Trump’s demand for a wall is not about border security. It is about a lie as sinister as the claim at the heart of Jim Crow—that America’s future depends on the values of white rule, not the promise of the multi-ethnic democracy we have struggled toward in this land for 400 years. We must not make the same mistake that the clergy of Birmingham made in 1963. If we would honor King, then let us follow him in refusing to compromise with a lie.

Nothingburger — Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker.

On Saturday, the twenty-ninth day of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Donald Trump tried to make a deal. The President, trapped between his far-right bona fides and the general electorate, offered to support a limited measure called the Bridge Act, which would extend temporary legal protections for Dreamers in exchange for full funding of his $5.7-billion border wall. The offer was reportedly crafted by Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, and without the input of congressional Democrats. Yet, almost on cue, Trump’s supporters claimed that the President had effectively flipped the script on his partisan detractors. “Compromise in divided government means that everyone can’t get everything they want every time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “The President’s proposal reflects that. It strikes a fair compromise by incorporating priorities from both sides of the aisle.”

The problem was that the offer addressed none of the Democrats’ concerns, either on the issue of the Dreamers, whose legal status Trump has put in limbo, or the shutdown, which Trump precipitated by demanding funding for the wall. In 2017, when Trump cancelled DACA, he gave Congress six months to devise a solution to protect the legal status of some seven hundred thousand Dreamers. Of all the proposals under consideration, the most conservative was a provisional arrangement known as the Bridge Act. It offered to freeze DACA protections in place for three years to buy Congress time as it sought to devise a proper solution. One of the bill’s sponsors, a Colorado Republican named Mike Coffman, who lost his reëlection bid last November, told me at the time that the bill was a last resort. Moderate Republicans preferred a more comprehensive solution that included a path to citizenship for Dreamers; the Bridge Act was something to have in place in case a deal couldn’t be reached in time. For all of its insufficiencies, the previous version of the Bridge Act would have covered many more people (some 1.3 million Dreamers) than the iteration outlined by the President on Saturday (roughly seven hundred thousand existing DACA recipients). Predictably, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, wasted no time in calling Trump’s latest proposal a “non-starter.” The question now is how long will the President, through clenched teeth, pretend he made the gesture in good faith?

It’s no accident that the White House has selected this measure to try to goad the Democrats, who, for the last several months, have been clear on one thing: no congressional deal on Dreamers would be acceptable unless it included a pathway to citizenship. The Bridge Act doesn’t just come up well short of that; in effect, it simply prolongs the status quo. Federal judges have already blocked the Trump Administration’s effort to cancel DACA, meaning the program is, for the time being, held in place. It’s a precarious situation—only existing recipients can renew their status, and new applications aren’t being accepted—but the Bridge Act is hardly a significant improvement. “The White House hasn’t released a bill yet, but the three years under the Bridge Act is not a three-year extension of DACA,” Kamal Essaheb, the policy director of the National Immigration Law Center, told me on Saturday. “Under the original Bridge Act, the protections end at a certain date in the future. So, if the Bridge Act is enacted today, all work permits would expire in January, 2022, for example. That’s not much of a give, because someone renewing their DACA status today would likely get a work permit into mid- to late 2021.” There’s a chance that the Supreme Court will hear the Trump Administration’s case for ending DACA, but as of now the Justices have not shown any sign that they will; it seems increasingly unlikely, therefore, that the Trump Administration’s appeal will be heard during the Court’s current term. An additional inducement offered by the President, on Saturday, has a similarly stale logic. He proposed a three-year extension of temporary protected status (T.P.S.), which allows victims of war and natural disasters to live and work in the United States, for the three hundred thousand people who lost it over the last two years because of Trump. In October, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump Administration’s efforts to end their T.P.S.

The President proposed a raft of other measures, few of them new or meaningfully different than the terms already being haggled over. He wanted to add more border agents; invest in immigration judges; increase drug-detection technology at the border. The Democrats, who on Friday proposed to add a billion dollars to border-security funding, shouldn’t be particularly opposed to any of these details on their own. Their objection, however, is both more general and more explicit: they want to reopen the government first, and then deal with Homeland Security policies.

Ultimately, the most revealing aspect of Saturday’s proposal is the bland predictability of it. Last year, around this time, the President backed himself into the same corner: he agreed, in an Oval Office meeting with Chuck Schumer, to trade close to five times the wall funding he wants now for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Immediately afterward, he changed his mind, triggering a government shutdown. Earlier that month, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came to him with a bipartisan solution for Dreamers, which included changes to legal immigration and redoubled funding for border security—in short, all the measures the President had publicly demanded. He responded by blowing up the deal on the spot. Once more, Trump is hoping that the Democrats will flinch, and that no one will remember how we got here in the first place.

Doonesbury — More twitterpation.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Friday, December 21, 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018

November 22, 1963

JFK 11-22-06Friday, November 22, 1963. I was in the sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio. I had to skip Phys Ed because I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was in a study hall when a classmate came up from the locker room in the school basement to say, “Kennedy’s dead.” We had a boy in our class named Matt Kennedy, and I wondered what had happened – an errant fatal blow with a dodgeball? A few minutes later, though, it was made clear to us at a hastily-summoned assembly, and we were soon put on the buses and sent home. Girls were crying.

There was a newspaper strike at The Blade, so the only papers we could get were either from Detroit or Cleveland. (The union at The Blade, realizing they were missing the story of the century, agreed to immediately resume publication and settle their differences in other ways.) Television, though, was the medium of choice, and I remember the black-and-white images of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, the casket being lowered, President Johnson speaking on the tarmac, and the events of the weekend – Oswald, Ruby, the long slow funeral parade, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” – merging into one long black-and-white flicker, finally closing on Monday night with the eternal flame guttering in the cold breeze.

I suspect that John F. Kennedy would be bitterly disappointed that the only thing remembered about his life was how he left it and how it colored everything he did leading up to it. The Bay of Pigs, the steel crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, even the space program are dramatized by his death. They became the stuff of legend, not governing, and history should not be preserved as fable.

At the age of eleven, I never thought about being old enough to look back fifty-five years to that time. According to NPR, more than sixty percent of Americans alive today were not yet born on that day. Today the question is not do you remember JFK, but what did his brief time leave behind. Speculation is rife as to what he did or did not accomplish – would we have gone in deeper in Vietnam? Would he have pushed civil rights? Would the Cold War have lasted? We’ll never know, and frankly, pursuing such questions is a waste of time. Had JFK never been assassinated, chances are he would have been re-elected in 1964, crushing Barry Goldwater, but leading an administration that was more style than substance, battling with his own party as much as with the Republicans, much like Clinton did in the 1990’s. According to medical records, he would have been lucky to live into his sixties, dying from natural causes in the 1980’s, and he would have been remembered fondly for his charm and wit – and his beautiful wife – more than what he accomplished in eight years of an average presidency.

But it was those six seconds in Dealy Plaza that defined him. Each generation has one of those moments. For my parents it was Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the flash from Warm Springs in April 1945. Today it is Challenger in 1986, and of course September 11, 2001. And in all cases, it is what the moment means to us. It is the play, not the players. We see things as they were, contrast to how they are, and measure the differences, and by that, we measure ourselves.

Monday, September 17, 2018

If History Is Any Guide

The fact that Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser of sexual assault has come forward and is willing to testify is good in that it removes the shadow of anonymity behind which his supporters can hide and dismiss the claim.  But if history — in the name of Anita Hill — is any guide, it is she who will be vilified and Judge Kavanaugh portrayed as the victim, and the Republicans will still vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

It’s not just the intervening years since Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas displayed himself as a sexual predator or the emergence of the #MeToo movement have elevated the consciousness of sexual assault and the pervasive ways in which the perpetrators try to convince us that it’s all a witch hunt.  They haven’t, even though the number of people who have been brought to justice — or at least been identified and faced the consequences — has risen dramatically in the last few years.  It’s only been happening among those who have a conscience, and oddly enough, the people who preached the loudest about “character counts” and worried endlessly about what to tell the children, are the ones who rise to the defense of the accused and find creative ways of dismissing the charges.

The vote may be delayed.  Christine Blasey Ford may give testimony on live TV, reenacting the Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991.  But in the end — and especially with their party led by someone who was able to be elected while bragging about committing sexual assault — they will find a way to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the court.  Then he and Justice Thomas can share a Coke and a smile.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Since Then

Today marks seventeen years since the attacks in New York, Washington, and the foiled one that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.  Since then, what have we become?

I remember driving home from school that afternoon, listening to NPR as they covered the aftermath live, and the days afterward; going out before dawn to walk Sam and not hearing the usual air traffic overhead, thinking of the yet-unimaginable responses this country would have to such a brutal attack.  I don’t think I had the foresight to wonder how it would change our national psyche, but I remember thinking that whatever happened, I hoped it would be for the better.

It has not.  In the years since, we have become more narrow-minded, paranoid, defensive, and easily frightened, even when we have tried to respond to our better angels.  Seven years after the attack we elected our first African-American president, many of us with the hope that this was a sign of healing and growth, only to have it turned immediately to hatred, recrimination, and xenophobia against our own.  The fear of the Other, be they from different countries, of different ethnicities, or even of a non-conformist sexual orientation, became fodder for political ambition and divisiveness.  Instead of coming together, we pushed away.  As so many have noted, the goal of terrorism is to kill not one person but kill as many as possible not to achieve a body count but to weaken the body as a whole.  In that regard, the attacks that Tuesday morning were a success.

Look at what we have become.  We flinch; let one deranged individual try to bring down an airplane with a sneaker and we spend ten years shuffling barefoot through the airport.  We kneejerk; when African Americans rightly point out that America is still dealing with its original sin — slavery and Jim Crow and the social structure it created — and football games become a clash of symbolism over an icon.  When black men are killed by police and people object, it is no longer a cause for examination of a culture but a rallying cry for racists.  And when we elect a president who embodies the worst aspects of authoritarianism, narcissism, and cannot think beyond the end of the last election cycle, we have allowed ourselves to become the pawns of those who would like to bring us down, not just to their level but to where we can be conquered; not by an army but by our own lizard-brain reflexes.

We’ve been here before and we’ve recovered from worse.  There have been countless good deeds of healing and growth since that day, even though it takes reminding.  We have seen over and over we can do better, even if the bellicose and the tweeters drown them out.  The number of us who want to work together is greater than those that wish to keep us apart; we just have to be that much more assertive.  As I’ve said so many times, hope is our greatest weakness, but it is also like gravity: invisible, immeasurable, but constant and unconquerable.  Channeled with action and reinforced with a belief in ourselves and what we can do together, hope can win.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

On This Date

August 9, 1974.

Where were you?

I was in Perrysburg, Ohio, a month out of my NOLS program and three months after graduating from Miami, getting ready to go up to northern Michigan for a couple of weeks before finding a job. On that very day I had a dentist appointment but I got back in time to watch Nixon’s Lear speech to the staff and Ford’s swearing in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ten Million Mustangs

1965 Ford Mustang 2+2

A bit of automotive history has been made.

When Samuel Crawford’s grade-school teacher asked her students what they wanted to do when they grew up, his classmates said they wanted to be doctors, lawyers and accountants. Sam said he wanted to build Mustangs, and his classmates laughed.

“The ’64 Mustang had just come out,” Crawford said. “All I could think about was that brand new pony car.”

Of his 31 years at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Crawford, has spent the last nine putting racing stripes on Mustangs. Today, he will join thousands of Ford workers celebrating production of the 10 millionth Mustang.

“I do what I said I wanted to do,” he said. “I didn’t know how they were built, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. And I have worked on 4,000 or 5,000 Mustangs.”

The iconic vehicle has been America’s best-selling sports car in the last half century and the world’s top selling sports car three years straight.

[…]

The 10 millionth Ford Mustang is a high-tech, 460-horsepower 2019 Wimbledon White GT V8 six-speed manual convertible equipped with driver assist technology and built at Flat Rock. The first serialized Mustang (VIN 001) produced in 1964 was the same color and model with a three-speed manual transmission and 164-horsepower V8.

I’ve had three, so in some small way, I’m part of the parade.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

One Small Step

Forty-nine years ago today the world was transfixed by two men who carefully made their way out of a spidery-looking shiny and delicate machine and set foot on another place that wasn’t Earth.

Looking back from this distance, it’s still an amazing feat, made even more so by the fact that the technology that got us there was basically one step up from a World War II rocket and computers the size of a garden shed that now dangle from a key ring.  There’s more computing power in your average smart phone today than what ran Apollo 11.  And it was all bought and paid for through government agencies.

I seriously doubt that we’ll ever mount anything so ambitious in such a short time again.  Back then we went from Echo I, a helium balloon in space, to Neil Armstrong on the Sea of Tranquility in ten years, and I’ve lived longer than the time it took to get us from Kitty Hawk to Tranquility Base.   What drove us to complete this amazing mission in 1969 wasn’t, as the then-recently cancelled “Star Trek” intoned, our desire “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”  It was to beat the Russians and win the propaganda war of capitalism and American spirit over Commie collectivism and scary grainy pictures of mushroom clouds from which we ducked and covered.  Yes, there was a spirit of adventure and sci-fi to it, but it was basically an ideological pecker contest, and we won.  So there.

We’ve come a long way since that July of 1969 when we set foot on the moon.  Going into space turned from adventure to lab work, and the greatest benefit from space-bound technology is that now you can listen to music bounced off a satellite without commercials.  By the time the Apollo missions ended in 1972, the launch barely warranted headlines.  Only tragedies such as Challenger and Columbia would remind us that going into space was more than just another way to get somewhere else.

Until we prove Einstein wrong and make the jump to hyperspace, we’re stuck on this rock, and chances are no one from anywhere else will come to call, so we’ve got to make the best of it.  That means taking care of ourselves, each other, and this pale blue dot adrift in the incalculably huge universe.

The speck in the brown band: That’s us.

So when Neil Armstrong proclaimed “one giant leap for mankind,” perhaps he was challenging us to realize that while exploring and seeking knowledge is in our basic nature, so is being good to where we came from and to each other.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Worst Is Yet To Come

Even if the Border Patrol and the rest of the agencies kept perfect records of every one of the over 2,000 children that were separated from their parent by those agencies and shipped off to who-knows-where and could reunite them with no delay, there will still be long-term damage to those children.  Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now we’re going to be dealing with the aftershocks.

Long after we’ve forgotten about what jacket Melania Trump wore, where Sara Huckabee Sanders ate dinner, and all the little “oh-look-at-the-kitty” distractions have come and gone, we’re going to be left with the clean-up that comes after a disaster.  No matter where those refugees end up, we will still be confronting not only what was done to them in the real sense, but also the cost to our nation in terms of being able to set an example of morality and democracy for the rest of our civilization.

We’ve had a habit of trying to teach the world how to live, how to bring freedom and justice to people, how to create a society that respects the rule of law and sets a good example.  We have failed on numerous occasions, but in doing so we’ve learned from our mistakes and vowed to do better.  In my relatively short lifetime I’ve seen those failures and seen the attempts to fix them, and the naive optimism that has come along in the aftermath that nothing like that could ever happen again.  I saw it with the McCarthy era where we were supposed to learn that xenophobia incites panic and harm; I saw it with Vietnam where going to war didn’t always mean that we won, especially if it was for the wrong reasons, and I saw it in Watergate where we stopped a corrupt administration from trashing the Constitution to achieve political ends.

We made it through dark times before but with aftershocks that still rattle us today, and in some cases the cautionary tales we told ourselves that were supposed to warn us away from certain behaviors and outcomes have become beacons, not warnings.  Simply put, we’re in a place where each one of those failures has come back to us and our response so far has been “Hold my beer.”

I firmly believe that we will survive this time in our history, but at what cost?  Who’s going to pay for it?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Reading

The Enduring Legacy of Bobby Kennedy — Charles P. Pierce.

Because it has been 50 years, his grandson is my congressman now—a young, passionate red-haired fellow with a crooked smile and a fascinating back story of his own to tell. My congressman’s mother was the first person to take a chunk out of the hide of the unspeakable Bernard Cardinal Law long before the clerical sex-abuse scandal broke and won everybody Pulitzers and Oscars. She took on the Roman Catholic Church’s ridiculous annulment process and won. She fought the case for a decade and finally got the Vatican to cry “Avunculus!” in 2007. My congressman was one of the reasons she fought so hard against preposterous odds. Because it has been 50 years, and there is a through-line that leads all the way back to a cold tiled floor in a hotel kitchen, the end of one good fight and the beginning of so many others.

I have no idea whether Robert F. Kennedy actually would have been elected president in 1968 if someone with a gun hadn’t gotten in the way, as people with guns tended to do during that plague-ridden year. He certainly was building momentum toward his party’s nomination. He had won in places like Indiana and Nebraska, and he had bounced back from having lost in Oregon with a high-stakes win in California. It is possible, as so many of the wise guys of the time claim now in retrospect, that he could have pulled the two wings of the Democratic Party close enough together to beat Richard Nixon, who was not as inevitable as events indicated at the time.

(Hell, Hubert Humphrey almost whipped him and, given another week, probably would have.)

But I am far from completely convinced of that. The Chicago convention likely would have been a free-for-all anyway, inside and outside the hall. The honest protestors might have been mollified by his nomination, but the angrier of the species would have caused their trouble anyway. At the very least, it’s possible that fewer heads would have been busted and it would have been less likely that Dan Rather would have been sucker-punched on live TV.

And what of President Lyndon Johnson, already a lame duck and with nothing at all to lose? How would he have reacted to the nomination of his nemesis to replace him? LBJ, as much as I respect much of what he did, was capable of anything at that point. That is a riddle that was rendered unsolvable by those gunshots in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel.

What I do know is that his campaign was like no other—a howling cri de Coeur from a wounded nation in a world gone mad around it. It is remembered fondly because the cri de Coeur seemed to be one of stubborn hope that the country could be pulled back from the abyss into which it was staring. But there were other cries from other coeurs that year, too.

Running on the ur-Trumpian platform of the American Independent Party, George Wallace and Curtis LeMay managed to rack up 46 electoral votes, carrying five states, all of them in the old Confederacy. Nixon saw this, and the Southern Strategy was born. In truth, the cri from the coeur of the Wallace campaign has echoed more loudly through American politics than has anything Robert Kennedy said or did as a candidate in 1968. His cri died away when his coeur stopped beating. There is a profound sadness in that.

Whatever it was that drew people to Robert Kennedy is lost to time, although there was some evidence of its abiding force in the two campaigns that Jesse Jackson ran, and even more in the 2008 election of Barack Obama. But the ferocity that drove the Kennedy campaign in 1968, the outrage burning beneath all the healing rhetoric, has been lost ever since. Politicians, and Democratic politicians in particular, became frightened by passion, by the personal, visceral force that drove RFK into the Indianapolis ghetto and announce to the crowd the news of the murder that night of Dr. King, quoting Aeschylus along the way.

That is still the most astonishing performance I have ever seen from a politician, because it was not a politician speaking that night. It was a bleeding country talking through a man who’d already seen tragedies descend upon himself like dark and predatory birds. It was a human being who’d already lost a sister and two brothers, the last of whom was killed from ambush while he was President of the United States.

One of the most remarkable passages from that Indianapolis appearance, a moment unlike any in American politics before or since, came when RFK talked about the murder of his brother.

For those of you who are black—considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible—you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization—black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love. For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with—be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

That sentiment can be read, in cold pixels, as almost condescending, but the crowd didn’t take it that way. His brother’s murder almost killed him. He knew it, and the people in the streets of Indianapolis knew it and drew a connection unlike any other and believed that he felt the way they felt. No politician since that night ever has spoken so frankly about the power of love and compassion in politics, not even Barack Obama, who often sounded as though he believed love and compassion were always present, even though events have proven that not to be the case. Love and compassion have to be dragged to the surface of our politics, and, even when all the effort is expended to do so, there’s still no guarantee that anyone will buy them.

Ultimately, the great unknowable is whether the country would have taken the turns it took in the 1970s and 1980s, the dangerous detours that have brought us to our present moment, if there had been no guns in the kitchen that night. The reactionary forces against the gains of the Civil Rights Movement already were gathering force, and it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the Republicans would have formed their dark alliance with the remnants of American apartheid even more swiftly had Nixon been defeated by yet another Kennedy.

I would like to think that Robert Kennedy would have been able to stand against the foul gales that were then rising. I prefer to think that he would have, because I prefer to think of this country as perpetually redeemable. So many of our wounds are self-inflicted, and, by and large, through our history, we’ve at least made some good faith effort to heal them and to atone to ourselves for having inflicted them in the first place. That, ultimately, is what Robert Kennedy stood for and, alas, what he died for as well. Wisdom, through the awful grace of God.

A Good Week — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on the Democrats’ results in the primaries.

Donald Trump has had a remarkable impact on American politics. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, he occupied and conquered the Republican Party by mobilizing disaffected, non-college-educated white voters. His accession to the Presidency politicized and mobilized another big segment of the population: liberal, college-educated Americans of all races, particularly women. As the past week has confirmed, this mobilization is just as real as the Make America Great Again phenomenon.

Most coverage of Tuesday’s midterm primaries has concentrated on California, the nation’s most populous state, but I’ll focus here on New Jersey, which may be a bellwether. If there’s anything that analysts from across the political spectrum agree on, it’s that the November general election will be decided in the suburbs and exurbs, where Democrats are targeting Republicans and Independents put off by Trump. New Jersey is perhaps the most suburban of all the states, and, although it has been trending toward the Democrats in recent years, it still has five Republican congressional districts.

The Democrats have their sights set on four of them: the Second, which covers the southernmost portion of the state, from Atlantic City to the Delaware Bay; the Third, which runs across the south-center of the state, from Toms River to close to Philadelphia; the Seventh, which extends from just west of Newark along Route 78 to the Pennsylvania line; and the Eleventh, which includes much of affluent Morris County, and which has for the past twenty-four years been represented by Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who is retiring.

On Tuesday, the Democrats got a strong turnout in all of these districts, except in the Third, where both parties’ primaries were uncontested. In fact, more Democrats voted in these G.O.P. districts than Republicans. (Democrats 112,751; Republicans 100,028.) For a number of reasons, it doesn’t make sense to extrapolate these figures directly to the general election. But at the very least, they point to an enthusiasm gap between the two parties that augurs poorly for Republicans.

So does the fact that the Democrats chose some experienced candidates who won’t be easy for the G.O.P. to defeat this fall. Two of them worked in the Obama Administration: Andy Kim (Third District) and Tom Malinowski (Seventh District). Jeff Van Drew, who won in the Second District, is a veteran state senator who, in the past, has supported lax gun laws and opposed gay marriage. His victory outraged some progressive Democrats, but his conservative views may well help him in a district that is largely blue-collar, and which Trump carried in 2016.

The victory, in the Eleventh District, of Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot, demonstrated the key role that people new to politics, and especially women, are playing in the anti-Trump mobilization. She told the Bergen Record’s Charles Stile that she was motivated to run by Trump’s “attacks on women, minorities, Gold Star families, POWs, and the Constitution.” She lives in liberal Montclair, a focal point for anti-Trump activism in the state. In addition to criticizing Trump and supporting Robert Mueller, the special counsel, she has also stressed pocketbook issues, such as health care and the impact on New Jersey homeowners of the Republican tax bill, which limited local property-tax deductions. Her formidable presence in the race was one of the factors that prompted Frelinghuysen, the scion of a New Jersey political dynasty, to retire.

The success of centrists like Sherrill demonstrates that the anti-Trump movement isn’t an ideological phenomenon. It is based on a visceral reaction to the President, the values—or lack of values—he represents, and the way he is running roughshod over Presidential norms. You can see this all across the country, as evidenced by a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which found that, by a margin of twenty-five percentage points, voters are more likely to go for a candidate who promises to provide a check on Trump.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent obtained a breakdown of these figures in districts that the Cook Report classifies as competitive, such as the four districts the Democrats are targeting in New Jersey. It showed the margin of voters wanting a check on the President was even larger in these places: thirty-three percentage points. “It should be noted that the vast, vast majority of these seats are held by Republicans,” Sargent wrote. “And so, in a whole lot of competitive seats mostly held by Republicans, majorities are more likely to vote for the candidate who will act as a check on Trump and will oppose him on most of his policies.”

Now, this was just one survey, and it did provide some encouraging bits of data for Republicans, including the fact that more than six in ten respondents said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the economic situation. As I noted earlier this week, the Republicans are trying to turn the midterms into a referendum on the economy. Over all, though, the findings of this poll and others released in recent days confirm what is evident in New Jersey—Trump’s presence in the White House has created a major backlash against him and his G.O.P. enablers. (The new polls also indicate that the Democrats still hold a big lead in the generic congressional ballot, which political analysts watch closely.)

Going into the campaign season, anti-Trump fervor remains the key factor shaping the political environment. With four months to go until the general election, some things could change. But it’s hard to see public sentiment toward Trump shifting much, and this week confirmed why Democrats have reason to be encouraged about the fall.

Doonesbury — Back to normal.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Reading

“Mustang Means Freedom”  — James B. Stewart on why Ford decided to keep building the icon.

1965 Ford Mustang*

When Ford Motor all but eliminated passenger cars from its North American lineup earlier this month to concentrate on trucks and S.U.V.s, it turned the page on a long and storied history of now-defunct but once red-hot nameplates: the Model T, the Model A, the Galaxie, the Fairlane, the Thunderbird and the Falcon, to name several.

There was one conspicuous survivor: the Mustang.

“Get rid of the Mustang?” asked James D. Farley Jr., Ford’s president of global markets, when I asked him this week how the Mustang had survived. “The Mustang is like Rocky: It survived the 1970s fuel crisis, the glam 1980s, the move to S.U.V.s. It’s made it through every round of cuts.”

For me, the Mustang’s reprieve came as welcome news: I took my driver’s test in my mother’s 1967 turquoise Mustang notchback. On the rare occasions I was allowed to drive it, it conferred instant status and triggered unabashed envy among my high school classmates.

Wall Street probably would have been just as happy to see the Mustang go the way of the Fusion, Taurus and Fiesta, current models that Ford said it would phase out and which Mr. Farley dismissed as “commodity silhouettes.” (Ford says it will continue to make passenger vehicles, but they just won’t be in the shape of today’s sedan. The Focus, for example, will survive, but as a crossover S.U.V.)

That’s because in its last earnings report, Ford revealed for the first time that a relatively small number of products, including the hugely popular F-150 pickup truck series, accounted for 150 percent of its earnings before interest and taxes, with profit margins in the midteens. Another group was barely profitable. By contrast, Ford said its “low performing” products lost money, with negative margins of more than 10 percent.

Using Ford’s disclosures, Morgan Stanley automotive analyst Adam Jonas extrapolated that the low performing businesses accounted for 40 percent of Ford’s revenue yet sharply reduced the company’s earnings. Ford didn’t say which models fall into the category, but Mr. Jonas included North American passenger cars and Lincoln models. (So far, at least, Ford hasn’t altered its Lincoln lineup, which includes several passenger sedans.)

Mr. Jonas applauded Ford’s decision to drop most of its passenger cars, assuming the company actually follows through on it. “If a disproportionate effort is going into products that don’t make money and consumers don’t want, then what are they doing?” he asked.

Ford doesn’t break out financial results by model, but Mr. Jonas believes the Mustang is modestly profitable. The base hardtop starts at $25,845, but popular options can quickly drive up the cost. The convertible starts at $31,345. The most popular model, the Mustang GT fastback, can easily top $40,000, and the 526-horsepower Shelby GT350 starts at more than $57,000. A racing version of the Mustang Cobra can hit six figures.

“I can’t think of another car where some models sell for four times the base price,“ Mr. Farley said. “We sell a lot of Mustangs that are $70,000.”

The Mustang has continued to sell well. Ford said it sold nearly 126,000 last year in 146 countries and that it was the world’s best-selling sports car. (By contrast, the Toyota Corolla, the world’s best-selling passenger sedan, sold nearly a million cars.)

But the Mustang’s survival isn’t really about numbers. “Five years from now, whether Ford decided to keep the Mustang or not isn’t going to be a material factor,” Mr. Jonas said. “It’s more of an emotional thing. They’re trying to preserve the sexuality of motoring the way it used to be known.”

From the day it was introduced 54 years ago, Mustang was positioned as a stylish, affordable and practical alternative to expensive European sports cars. In various tests, the Mustang GT still compares favorably to the Porsche 911, which starts at over $90,000.

So iconic is the Mustang that it has been commemorated with a Postal Service stamp — twice. The latest one, in 2013, depicts a blue 1967 model bisected by two white stripes.

Mustangs have appeared in countless movies and television shows, becoming an indelible image of American culture. In “Goldfinger,” James Bond ran a white 1965 Mustang convertible with red interior off the road.

Steve McQueen drove a dark green 1968 fastback in “Bullitt,” in which Mustang emerged as a classic “muscle” car. This year Ford is selling a 475-horsepower Bullitt anniversary edition, complete with, in a nod to the original, a cue ball on the stick shift. The Bullitt limited edition sells for $47,495. (The first one off the assembly line sold at a charity auction earlier this year for $300,000.)

A souped-up 1967 Mustang fastback stars in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” But Mustangs aren’t all about high testosterone. A 1966 convertible is featured in “The Princess Diaries,” and Ford said 27 percent of Mustang buyers are women.

William Clay Ford Jr., Ford’s executive chairman and the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, is a Mustang fanatic, with 20 versions in his personal collection. Mr. Ford showed up at the company’s annual Mustang birthday party last month in a navy blue 1968 Mustang Shelby 500 convertible with a white top.

“I put it in the same category as the Corvette,” said Eric Minoff, an automotive specialist at Bonhams auction house in New York. The Mustang “is a cultural icon,” he added. “Even people who don’t know anything about cars recognize a Mustang.”

Next week, Bonhams is auctioning several vintage Mustangs previously owned by Carroll Shelby, the racecar driver and automotive entrepreneur who developed high-performance Shelby Mustangs in collaboration with Ford starting in the 1960s. A 1968 Mustang GT 350 and a 1969 GT 500 are each estimated to fetch $80,000 to $100,000 at the June 3 auction.

I found a turquoise 1967 Mustang notchback that looked identical to my mother’s car listed on the Hemmings vintage car site for $37,900.

Those are surprisingly high prices considering how many Mustangs were made. “After the car first came out, there was a saying that hot cakes are selling like Mustangs,” Mr. Minoff said. “They’re not exactly rare. But no matter how common they are, they’re very attractive cars, and with the V-8 engine and rear-wheel drive, they’re very sporty and fun to drive. The fastback editions, especially with all the options, command quite a premium.”

Mr. Farley described the Mustang as a “mind-set” vehicle. “When we ask people around the world what they think of Ford, they say Mustang,” he said. “Mustang means freedom. It means taking a road trip in a convertible down the West Coast. That’s what people all over the world imagine America to be. Why would we ever give that up?”

*I’ve had three: a 1965 2+2 like the one in the photo, a 1995 GT convertible, and my current one, a 2007 convertible.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on being reasonable with Trumpers.

We’re going to try something different today. Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I’ll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words.

Here, then, is “Robert” with a comparative analysis of the 44th and 45th presidents:

“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. … Could you please list one thing the demwit party has done for the black people in America other than hand out government freeies for their continued votes?”

And here’s “Gary’s” take on demographic change:

“[America] has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”

This column is presented as a service for those progressive readers who are struggling with something I said in this space. Namely, that I see no point in trying to reason with Trump voters. I first wrote that over a month ago, and I am still hearing how “disappointed” they are at my refusal to reach out. So I thought it might be valuable to hear from the people I’ve failed to reach out to.

I’m sure some of you think those emails were cherry-picked to highlight the intolerance of Trump voters. They weren’t. They are, in fact, a representative sampling from a single day in May, culled by my assistant, Judi.

It’s still an article of faith for many that the Trump phenomenon was born out of fiscal insecurity, the primal scream of working people left behind by a changing economy. But I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen an email from a Trump supporter who explained himself in terms of the factory or the coal mine shutting down.

I have, however, heard from hundreds like “Matthew,” who worries about “immigrants” and “Gerald,” who thinks people of color have an “alliance” against him. Such people validate the verdict of a growing body of scholarship that says, in the words of a new study by University of Kansas professors David N. Smith and Eric Hanley, “The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …”

Look, I get it. That’s a hard pill for those progressives who have kin or friends among Trump supporters. We love who we love, even when they — or we — are small, unkind or disappointing. That’s what family is about. We love who we love, and let no one make you feel compelled to apologize for that.

But at the same time, let us be clear-eyed and tough-minded in assessing what’s happened to our country — and why. How else can we salvage it from the likes of “A Trumper” who says Trump was needed to “get things back in order” after the “terrible job” done by President Obama?

He wrote: “We’re sick of paying welfare to so many of your brothers who don’t know what work and integrity mean. I hope you keep writing these articles and reminding my White Christian brothers that we did the right thing and we need to re elect Trump.”

I have two words for those progressives who think it’s possible to “reason” with that:

You first.

Doonesbury — One by one.