Taking Ben Franklin’s advice as one of my New Year’s resolutions…

December 31, 2018

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Isn’t that what Ben Franklin said? I don’t know about wealthy, but I think that I have discovered rather late in life that going to bed early works well for me. And when I do I naturally feel like getting up earlier — well unless it’s freezing cold.

As I write this it is New Year’s Eve day, but I will likely go to bed early. I rarely am up for New Year’s these days. That means one less call for the cops. Back in the mid 70s when the clock struck 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve I opened the front door of our house and with champagne bottle in hand let out a yell. Someone called the cops. The officers politely told me to keep it down, someone had called in. Probably one of my neighbors with the perennial barking dog. To make it more embarrassing for such a law abiding citizen as myself, I was a local newspaper reporter at the time.

But back to going to bed early. I cannot always do that because I drive a truck long haul and am not on a fixed schedule (it’s all around the clock, fitting into the hours of service rules of course). But when I can I like to get to bed by 9 p.m. or even 8:30. Since I drive for such long hours — by law we are allowed to drive 11 hours within a 14-hour window — I don’t seem to have any trouble falling asleep when I go to bed early, and staying asleep I might add. I used to go to bed late, maybe fall asleep quickly but then wake up repeatedly through the night and no matter how late I retired I would awake fairly early in the morning and then have a hard time getting through the day for lack of sleep.

Oh, and for you insomniacs, try some hard labor. Your sleepless nights might become a thing of the past, not that I engage in hard labor or at least not of the physical kind, these days. But the few times in my life that I did, I don’t recall having trouble sleeping.

A big advantage of going to bed early in my business is that safe and easy places to park the truck are a lot easier to find early in the evening. But of course the floating schedule of a truck driver often does not allow an early stop.

But I think I make better decisions when I have gone to bed early and arise early. And in my job that is really what it is all about — making spur-of-the-moment decisions while maneuvering through traffic with cars zipping under your bumper so that they can make that exit or get around the slow moving car (read that car travelling at the posted speed limit) in front of them, or while maneuvering your truck in a tight shipping yard.

Another resolution (trying to go to bed early was number one) could be to quit writing this blog but I will likely continue. I’ve always been a writer, even though the only writing I ever got paid for was my about 15 years in the newspaper business. You can take the boy out of the world of typing words but you can’t take the world of typing words out of the boy.

And finally, I make the resolution that I make each year but somehow feel that I have not lived up to or at least have fallen short of my potential in and that is to become fluent in Spanish. While I have come a long way, I am way short of where I should be by now. I won’t say how long I have been studying, and there have been long breaks in study since I began (hint: decades ago), but I should be as fluent as an educated native speaker by now. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

And about learning a foreign language, some people are not only not interested but they in fact resent hearing a foreign tongue spoken in their presence. I get that. I was in fact that way about Spanish to some extent for a time. In my business it is a common language (but then so is Punjabi and some eastern European languages and Russian). Yeah, I would go to a place to pick up or deliver freight and the people would be chattering in Spanish. I always wondered if they were making snide remarks about me. But after I refreshed myself on some of my long ago Spanish from school and began a continued study of the language I had a different outlook. Like I told a Spanish-speaking friend: I used to resent going to places where I would hear Spanish, now I say, gee I hope they speak Spanish there (I need the practice).

And please don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mean to say foreign languages are for everyone. It is useful and fun to know another language (or more than one other), but here in the good ol’ US of A English is the unofficial, official language, and if we would all just be better at using it we’d all be better off. I just happen to enjoy learning foreign languages. I have tried German and French (both are major in my heritage) and enjoyed them both, but have come to the conclusion I need to master one foreign language before I move to another.

Yada, yada, yada, I’ll wrap this up — but while I am on the subject, for the benefit of anyone contemplating foreign language study I will state the obvious but sometimes overlooked aspect of language study. You learn by speaking it as it is spoken. You have to put yourself into situations and places where the language is used. And you need to brave it and not be afraid you will say the wrong thing and embarrass yourself — you will, but just do it and get over it.

Just try not to inadvertently insult one’s mother or sister or whatever.

Happy New Year!

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

p.s.

Well I will bare all, that is the state of my Spanish. I composed a little essay with minimal use of references. To those fluent in Spanish it may or hopefully not show my weaknesses but since I went to the trouble and since in it I was advising those studying Spanish to do this very thing, I’ll publish it anyway. To check my work I used two different computer translators, one is easy to use but not reliable and the other perhaps more reliable but not as easy to use. And when translating mistakes are made because literal translation often does not match the meanings between the languages. That is my excuse. Any comments from those in the know are welcome.


 

Yo debo que añadir que un otra parte importante de aprender una lengua nueva, por lo menos español, es escribirlo, escribir sus propios ensayos y tratar leer los periódicos de español. Mientras usted no va a comprender muchas de las palabras, después de ver palabras y frases una y otra vez, va a comenzar comprender. Es cierto. Por supuesto cuando es necesario pueda usar las referencias de lenguas, por ejemplo, un diccionario. Pero usted deba que tratar comprender la significado sin los referencias tanto como posible.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pulling out troops may be right but seems like chaos; shutting down government is senseless…

December 21, 2018

Chaos rules in the capital of the free world where the president of the United States holds his nominal political party, the Republicans, if not the whole planet, hostage.

He is threatening to shut down the whole government for a “long time” if necessary in order to get funding for his treasured border wall.


UPDATE (12-22-18): In fact the government has been partially shut down as of midnight Eastern time Friday night (12-21-18) with lawmakers in the senate unable to come to a spending agreement after the president continued to demand funding for a border wall. The lower house, with the newly-elected Democratic Party majority not seated yet, had passed a bill with border wall funding. At a televised meeting the other day with two leaders of the Democratic Party President Trump (a Republican) vowed to take full blame for the shutdown but of course today has changed his tune and is blaming the Democrats. I believe Trump plays to a base who he feels does not really analyze all of his words or actions but instead blindly follows him even to their own detriment. That base may or may not have dwindled. And it is hard for me to imagine how that minority can be like a tail wagging the dog that is the American nation, the United States. 


But even more shocking on pure impulse he has ordered the withdrawal of American troops from both Syria and Afghanistan, which is seen as an abandonment of our allies.

Now it could be that the withdrawal of troops is a good thing and in fact should have been done a long time ago or in fact they perhaps should have never been put there in the first place.

But there ought to be some solid policy even if it is subject to change.

When one is stuck in a no-win situation it is hard to know what to do.

Back during the terrible quagmire of the Vietnam War one senator suggested that we “declare victory and go home”. It is too bad that we did not. Instead we continued only to finally succumb to the inevitable and tuned tail and run, with Vietnamese who had stuck by us hanging on to the skids of departing helicopters from our embassy roof as the North Vietnamese tanks and troops advanced into Saigon.

We, or that is to say the powers that be in Washington, have long been under the impression that we could way back when fight the threat of communist domination and then more recently Islamic terrorism by engaging in nation building. We need to quit thinking that. That mentality gets us stuck in military quagmires.

President Trump might be onto something, although I suspect his real intent is to continue to stir the pot in order to take the focus off of his own wrongdoings, conspiring with the Russians and using his power as president to enrich his own private holdings (even though technically he is only accused of all this, somehow with all the evidence that has emerged there seems little question).

But there needs to be coherent policy or no one will respect us. We won’t even respect ourselves.

As far as shutting our own government down I just don’t understand that at all. It is a terrible way to treat government employees and it imperils social services and the economic services the government supplies to business.

The government is not the enemy. At times its bureaucracy can be frustrating (although on a personal basis I have not had a problem) but that is the case in any large organization.

I just read about folks in Trump country hating the government and living off of its benefits. And I just read about a major trucking company accused (accused mind you, not found guilty) of defrauding the government by overcharging by way of falsified weights.

Shutting down the government is an admission by those involved that they cannot govern.

But here is something chilling. The story is (true? I don’t know) that Secretary of Defense James Mattis had inserted himself into the nuclear chain of command reassuring folks that he was a bulwark between a reckless and unpredictable president and nuclear Armageddon. But as we know, Mattis has now resigned in protest over Trump’s chaos policy.

To the Republican Party: you created a Frankenstein or at least let him develop and now you don’t seem to know what to do. Who will save us? Republican leaders could. I hope they have the guts.

Trump does not necessarily need to be impeached (although one wonders what with his seeming instability the 25th Amendment route of removing him could be in order), but there needs to be some check on his power. The Constitution provides it with the separation of powers. The legislative branch needs to step up to the plate.

If Trump is sane, and that to me is in question, the silver lining in all of this is that it can be good to have someone who can think outside the box — but still that someone needs to be kept in check. That is how our system is supposed to work.

p.s.

Trump has declared victory as the excuse for troop withdrawal. Everyone knows that is not the case. At the same time a real victory would seem impossible. No empire has ever been able to run the world forever. We should not even try. Let’s just run our own part of it.

 

 

 


I thought the high court put the Obamacare issue to rest…

December 16, 2018

Just an initial reaction to a ruling by a federal judge in Texas declaring all of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”, to be unconstitutional.

I thought we already travelled this road. The U.S. Supreme Court has already held it to be constitutional.

The high court and its subordinate lower courts generally follow the principle that once they make a ruling on law they don’t just reverse themselves later, except in extraordinary circumstances or with the passage of time and social custom. They follow precedent under the principle of stare decisis, Latin for stand by things decided.

Can you imagine the chaos there would be if the courts held one way one day and the opposite the next on the same issue? There would be no respect for the law because no one could be confident on what the law is.

The Texas judge, however, seems to depend upon a gimmick so far as I see in my initial reading of all of this. Obamacare was saved when its individual mandate was attacked in a case before the high court. But Chief Justice Roberts, in a surprise to many because he is a conservative, found that the individual mandate, which required citizens to purchase health insurance, either on their own or though the government or suffer a monetary penalty, was within the congress’ power to enact tax law.

But under President Trump a Republican-controlled congress brought the penalty to zero dollars. The Texas judge holds the tax provision was wiped out, therefore the whole law is too because somehow all of its provisions were interdependent.

At least that is my understanding of it all at this time. There are some related complexities in all of this, perhaps, but I believe that to be the gist of it.

This ruling is already being challenged — I don’t know if any papers have been filed yet, but it is being challenged on more than one front I think, to include the political front of a new Democratic majority set to take control of the House of Representatives.

Obamacare of course was a Democratic Party bill. And it was strongly opposed by the Republicans and yet even though they had a majority it passed. Go figure. Maybe because a lot of people needed health care but could not get it. Ever since its passage the Republicans have vowed to kill it and yet have not been able to and have never, I repeat never, submitted a replacement bill. Far better to have something to complain about than defend when it comes to politics maybe.

The irony is that much of the Republican constituency want and indeed use the provisions in Obamacare, such as protection for pre-existing conditions and being able to cover their adult children.

But the Republican Party has a hard time admitting that the free market does not work for everything or at least has not seemed to.

Certainly excellent health coverage can be had through the free market. I myself have benefitted, in fact had my life saved, through private health group insurance through my employer.

If everyone could either afford his or her own insurance or had access to group insurance, a lot less government help would be needed. But for some reason it does not work that way.

I think there could have been a better option than Obamacare and its complexities, involving the federal government, state governments, and private insurance. But politically we got what we got. And it has been popular, even if costs continue to rise.

To me a better option might have been to simply expand Medicare and Medicaid for those who could not otherwise afford health coverage. And I would think eligibility requirements should be tough. I think people should have skin in the game. Makes them use their coverage more wisely and not waste expensive medical resources.

But Obamacare was a compromise after decades of progressives trying the get some form of national health insurance, including one of the original progressives, Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican of all things (not to be confused with his I think distant cousin, the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt).

It seems incomprehensible to me that this judge’s ruling will stand. It may be overturned before it gets there, but I cannot see the U.S. Supreme Court overturning basically their own decision, no matter what the makeup of the court once it gets to them (if ever).

p.s.

No injunction was issued, so Obamacare is still in effect.

 

 

 


Let the people decide about the treason of candidates working with the enemy…

December 15, 2018

Note: What I think is more newsworthy or relevant at this time is a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that if followed would eliminate our national health insurance program called “Obamacare”. I can’t see the ruling being upheld higher up the judicial ladder, but it is curious. However, I already had begun on the post below and hate to see my typing go to complete waste. I’ll have a few words to say on the ruling, shortly I hope, and maybe far fewer than in this post. I don’t know yet.


 

I was thinking about doing a post about poor Michael Flynn, the retired army general who ever so briefly served as national security advisor in the early days of the Trump administration but got caught up in the ongoing Russian collusion investigation and is now asking for leniency in sentencing after cooping a plea of guilty to lying to the FBI in exchange for not being charged with further crimes.

Some no doubt partisan stories suggest that he was basically entrapped by FBI agents who tricked him into blabbing things he might otherwise have not by first getting him to talk of wholly unrelated things.

One story I read claimed that he has invited to a meeting with FBI agents under the guise that they were going to talk about some government training session. It also said that they had advised him no counsel would be necessary.

But they did question him about the Russia thing, and I would think just about anyone these days would know that once the cops begin questioning you, you either need to keep your trap shut (no matter whether you feel yourself to be innocent or not and that it is best to have the advice of an attorney. And this man was a general. He should have known).

Perhaps they did talk to him about wholly unrelated matters and then cleverly, almost subliminally, slipped in Russia questions — if you can really do that, does that constitute official questioning?

I even thought that he had been coerced into testifying against himself, and I began to do some research into the old English Star Chamber, but there was too much to read and digest on that (I’ll have to get back to that sometime).

So Flynn is charged with and has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about dealings with the Russians. And he is awaiting sentencing now.

I’m not going to get into much of that. We all know the whole purpose of the special counsel investigation by retired FBI director Robert Mueller is supposed to be about purported Russian attempts to subvert our last presidential election and the possible collusion by the Trump campaign, who it is alleged by some were promising the Russians things if they would spread propaganda and do other things to help him win.

(The investigation has broadened to say the least. Mission creep.)

But anyway I felt a little sorry in that the poor general, involved in several of our military operations, including Afghanistan, seemed to be a pawn in this whole affair.

He did the bidding of Trump and then was fired by Trump under the dubious excuse that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his dealings with the Russians. Maybe I need to go back and read all that because I have no idea how that makes any sense. I mean I did not know it was a crime to lie to the vice president — a man who by his very office has nothing to do but wait for something to happen to number one. I was being  little flip — but really, that is the best reason they could come up with for firing someone who is giving them bad publicity?

But then I read further and was reminded of something I had read previously but that had slipped my mind. Flynn had been a lobbyist for the Turkish government. All my sympathy vanished. And I read that he had failed to follow the law disclosing such.

Turkey, a member of NATO, is a nominal ally to the U.S., although pretty shaky at this time. But I don’t think our government officials or military personnel active or retired should be lobbying for any foreign government, even if they disclose it. It seems unpatriotic and possibly treasonous to me.

The special prosecutor is requesting easy treatment for Flynn because he has reportedly cooperated extensively in the Russia investigation.

Curiously, since he is getting a break already, at the same time, though, Flynn is claiming that he was tricked into lying to federal agents. Now lying is lying but I suppose there can be cases in which for the interests of who you are working for — in this case Trump — and politics one might fudge a little and tell a white lie, or just leave something out, lie by omission. But I guess the FBI claims he just plain set out to deceive federal agents.

It gives me pause a little that two FBI agents were on record, via exposed internal emails, as being anti-Trump leading up to his election. They were let go. And the FBI director who Trump fired, James Comey, was a loose cannon going way beyond his rightful role during the past presidential campaign, taking it upon himself (if I have this in order) defending Hillary Clinton on the email scandal, casting doubt on her for it, and just before the actual vote, saying never mind, nothing there. Cops are not supposed to get into the politics or even the prosecution — they investigate and arrest.

It does seem strange to me that Flynn lied to the FBI, except initially he may not have realized he was under suspicion and may have conveniently not recalled some things because he felt responsibility to Trump and may have thought none of his actions were against the law, and I am not sure that they were — except lying to the FBI. Yeah to lie to federal officials is a crime within itself.

But back to the Russian collusion thing. Last May, I see, I did a post in which I suggested that the Russiagate investigation, as some call it, should be wrapped up. If there are guilty people, charge them. I think I suggested that it is unfair to drag an investigation on through a presidency with continued innuendo but no conclusion. It subverts the ability of a president elected by the people (Electoral College notwithstanding) to carry out his duties.

So we are starting to see some high level convictions.

And then one has to ask one’s self: just when do contacts with foreign governments or officials during a campaign become a crime?

I am not a lawyer, but in and of itself, I don’t think they are necessarily. But “collusion” I read is really just short hand for actual crimes involving campaigns and transferring information between our government and foreign powers. About as clear as mud, I know.

However, I think the bottom line here is that the narrative is (not proven) that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in part by promising to go soft on Obama administration sanctions against Russia in return for support in electing Trump.

There are also reports of business deals between Trump businesses and the Russians dependent on Trump being elected.

This, that is colluding or contacting foreign governments by contenders in presidential elections, has been done before or so it is alleged.

Richard Nixon purportedly urged the South Vietnamese not to go to the peace table with North Vietnam (during the Vietnam war of course) until he could get elected. Nixon it was said was worried that President Lyndon Johnson might get a peace agreement before that and thus ensure his own re-election. South Vietnam held off and Johnson chose not to run for the second term. Meanwhile Nixon won the presidency, but despite his assurance he had a plan to end the war, he did not — have a plan or end the war. (I forgot, a New York Times editorial said that notes from Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman indicate the veracity of this story.)

It has also been alleged but not proven that Ronald Reagan as a candidate made a deal with Iran not to release the US. hostages until after the presidential election, making President Jimmy Carter look bad. Carter’s presidency was doomed in part by its inability to free the hostages. In return, the Reagan administration supplied arms to Iran.

You know, I think the best way to combat all this intrigue is to have good journalism. Just as good as sending people to prison would be to have an informed public who can make up their own minds and not elect the rascals in the first place or keep them in office. But then without the investigations I suppose it would be unlikely that the powers that be in journalism would assign reporters to cover all the intrigue.

 

 


Trump’s great wall is made of straw…

December 12, 2018

I don’t know what the latest design proposal is for Donald Trump’s great wall between the U.S. and Mexico but I think in essence we are talking about a wall fabricated with straw.

That is his proposal or demand for a wall is really a straw man.

It is code for keep America pure, support me as your leader.

Don’t let those dark people invade our country and take our jobs and rape and pillage.

And Trump does not really need to speak in code because he has already basically said in public what I just wrote, countless times.

But he knows that it is even more effective, both among his base and those who straddle the line, to talk about what might seem a reasonable form of border security. And, how can any reasonable congressman be against border security?

In fact, although I have no real idea what is in his mind — who does? — I suspect Trump is not as opposed to the undocumented as he proclaims. Yes, I believe that he like anyone else is against the entry by those intent on criminal behavior, but entry by those just seeking work in the underground cheap labor market — not so much. It has been reported that the various Trump enterprises use it, and just the other day it was revealed that one or more cleaning ladies at a Trump golf course, who made the president’s bed and scrubbed his toilet, were undocumented. Of course I am relatively sure that he did not hire them personally. But he has to be aware of all this in general.

No that is the way it is. There is what I just called an underground labor market for undocumented workers who fill the need, everything from house maids to gardeners to construction workers, or any job that is low paid or is too distasteful to those who find other means of support, i.e., welfare, other family members, holding a sign up on the street corner, ect.

And border security is a real issue. But I am not at all sure how much of a problem it is.

I believe the last I read illegal border crossings appear to be down. But all that ebbs and flows with the economic conditions north and south of the border.

Right now the instability in Central and parts of South America is causing a problem. Desperate people are migrating though Mexico and attempting to gain entry into the U.S., legally, mostly via asylum provisions, or illegally.

And I for one agree that we cannot afford to simply open our doors to the whole word with no controls — Europe has found what a problem that is.

But we already have fences and other barriers along much of the border.

The cost of some seemingly impenetrable wall would surly be astronomical, surly more than the $5 billion Trump is demanding right now, due to predictable cost overruns, and in the end it would likely not deter illegal immigration as much as hoped. People would still find ways to go over or under, or more likely, around it (by air and ocean).

And then there is the environmental and aesthetic concerns. I don’t know what those environmental concerns would be, but it seems erecting a giant man-made barrier across thousands of miles of varied terrain surly would have some detrimental effect.

But just the aesthetics: walling ourselves off to the world. Even though we would be trying to keep people out instead of imprisoning our population within, it still puts me in mind of the Berlin Wall or the barriers of the old Iron Curtain that held Eastern European citizens as prisoner for decades.

A wall sends a bad message, that we don’t want to be part of the world, a world we are obliged to share with others.

Besides, in this day and age something like the Great Wall of China seems outdated.

Again, just how bad is the problem of security? If we really were facing an invasion or even an active guerilla movement, then I would be in favor of sending in the military, and not just in administrative support as they are now.

Just don’t see it.

Let’s let our already-deployed border agents, possibly backed up by military surveillance technology if necessary, handle the job.

And what would really stem the flow is tighter enforcement of regulations barring the hiring of undocumented workers. At this time it is sporadic and in fact simply unofficially accepted in most cases.

And yes there are these troubling cases of criminals entering the country (with our own citizens falling victim, sometimes to murder), being caught, but sometimes not immediately or even ever being deported, or being deported only to come back. That seems to me to be a problem of failure to follow our own laws and perhaps courts stuck in some never-never land of legal abstraction and not the real world (judges are often insulated from the real world). That needs to be dealt with and may require the passage of new laws that make it clear that if one enters the country illegally and then commits a crime, then one is to be deported and is not welcome back. I know, what constitutes a crime and is that person entitled to due process, which is delayed due to court backlogs? Those questions need to be faced head on. But anyone here illegally in the first place it would seem rightfully has a heavy burden against him or herself (we need a generic pronoun). As for those caught by happenstance after being in the country illegally for many years but who have not committed serious offenses (like barring traffic tickets) that is a different story. Nothing is perfect and we have to use compassion and common sense in it all (that is why we have courts and don’t just simply feed all the data into a computer and let it decide).

And finally. What brought all this to mind was that public bickering the president and two leaders of the opposing political party engaged in on Tuesday (12-11-18) at the White House. Trump detractors tend to say Trump lost the argument when he vowed to “take ownership” or the blame for a possible government shut down (he has after all threatened) if he does not get money for the wall. But I would imagine Trump supporters would give him credit for standing tough.

If there was a winner, I would reluctantly have to say it was Trump. He was able to frame the whole thing as he will do whatever it takes to protect the American people. He was able to do this by simply just saying it.

I think for their part Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would have done well to say little and simply politely tell the president that they will give any of his requests due consideration, thank you and let him babble on.

p.s.

Trump has implied, although perhaps not admitted, that he would accept less than his wall. So maybe one could also call the wall thing a “negotiating tactic”. In fact I suppose it is both a straw man and negotiating tactic. I just think xenophobia and racism play a major role here based on Trump’s well-recorded rhetorical history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Like Watergate all over, pubic opinion will decide, but campaign violations won’t do it…

December 11, 2018

I really think this whole Trump Russiagate thing is basically Watergate all over again. Not at all sure about the outcome, though. This is not the 1970s. And maybe history never quite repeats itself.

And I go out on a limb in my headline and say campaign violations won’t do it. It seems highly questionable that someone could be ousted from the presidency over campaign violations. The accusation is that Trump paid off a couple of harlots who he allegedly had extra-marital affairs with to buy their silence during his campaign (seems to have been money poorly spent — they talked anyway). There would seem no doubt that besides trying to hide it from his wife he was also trying to hide it from potential voters. That is common sense. Some legal experts contend that is a campaign violation. Even if it is it is hard to see such a thing rises to the gravity to remove a president.

However playing footsie with the Russians to get their help in his election campaign and possibly some good personal business deals, that seems like high treason to me. And that just about leads the list for impeachable offenses. Apparently though, no hard evidence on that has come out — not out in public anyway.

If the investigators and the prosecutors have nothing more than Trump buying the silence of women connected with the sex trade, I think they are wasting time and money. But it ain’t over till it’s over. And Trump may know that they know or will know more.

Will Donald Trump resign his presidency in the face of an impeachment proceeding as Nixon did?

Sometimes I have wondered whether he might just resign even without that threat if things seemed to go sour. “My work is done. I’ve made America great again. I’m out of here”, he might say. Then pompous Pence could take over. A likely cruel fate indeed for the average Trump non-supporter .

A lot of people associated with President Trump are under investigation or have been indicted or even convicted and a couple sentenced for various crimes. And in all of this Trump himself seems implicated in both campaign finance violations (I actually think that is kind of minor), working with a foreign government against the interests of the United States (now that is big), and obstruction of justice (that’s big too).

The evidence is piling up and even though the fact patterns are not completely identical (how could they be?) it all seems like Watergate redux. It took almost two years into his second term to finally nail Nixon. Trump has been president for nearly two years (it just seems like longer).

Trump fired former attorney general James Comey for not halting the ongoing Russia investigation involving him (the president). Nixon fired the special prosecutor looking into Watergate. However another one took over.

Trump  dumped Attorney General Jeff Sessions for failing to stop the Russia investigation (he asked for Session’s resignation and got it). Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation because he had met with the Russian ambassador during the Trump campaign, originally denying any contact, only later having to admit it. And he felt the law required that he recuse himself (unlike his boss he took the law into consideration).

Trump is being dogged by what is called a “special counsel”, former FBI director Robert Mueller, appointed by the Justice Department after Trump took office. The Russia-Trump collusion investigation actually began during the Obama administration (but was not out in the open). There has been or had been speculation that Trump might just fire the special counsel. But many legal observers say the law that created the position does not allow that. Some Republicans who generally support the president or at least most of his policies (or who are just afraid of him) have gone on record as saying firing the special prosecutor would be the end of Trump’s presidency.

The facts and the politics and the personalities make what is sometimes referred to as Russiagate extremely complicated I think, more so than Watergate. Even so the fact pattern is eerily similar.

(Russiagate has spread to at least one other jurisdiction, a federal court in New York State, and has included and ensnared many Trump operatives. And its scope has expanded beyond Russian meddling in U.S. elections. I sometimes wonder about that, but then again should investigators and prosecutors ignore crimes?)

Trump had so far been protected from the fallout by the Russia investigation in that his own Republican political party held both houses of congress. Now it holds just the senate. But that is still good for Trump in that even though a House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats might bring impeachment proceedings against the president it seems unlikely the Republican-controlled upper house would vote to remove Trump from office, which under constitutional requirements only it has the power to do via the impeachement process.

That could all change.

In my estimation what would change it is the perceived mood of the electorate which comes by way of elections (the midterms have put  the Democrats in charge of the lower house as an example), opinion polls, visits by congressmen and senators to their home districts, letters and emails.

What changes the mood of the people is sometimes mysterious, although economics often play a part, whether it is directly involved in the issue of the moment or not.

Overall the U.S. economy has improved under Trump but it is undergoing great turmoil at the moment due in part (in my opinion) to the havoc he has created by the trade war he has instigated. The markets do not favor uncertainty.

Another similarity between Russiagate and Watergate is that in both cases the president seemed or seems sinister (I mean if Trump does not to you, then we live in a different universe).

But Nixon was a seasoned statesman and well known and even respected on the world scene. He however had a dark side that came out in such a chilling manner in the Watergate tapes. And although he famously proclaimed “I am not a crook” I don’t think he was ever thought of as a crook in the sense of theft or crooked business practices (the Checkers thing not worth mentioning here; it was politics and it helped him). Trump on the other hand it seems to me readily admits business skullduggery. I mean he defended his use of the bankruptcy courts as just a business practice. We also know he is litigious (used the courts to bully his way in business). And the reports indicate that Trump and his family business has cozied up to the Russians in business dealings and promised that if he was elected he would lower or lift economic sanctions against Russia imposed over its aggression. And it is also apparent that Trump uses his position as president to enhance the family business. He refuses to release his tax records or to put his holdings into a blind trust as has been the custom of his predecessors.

All the continued bad publicity for Trump is not likely to sway his ardent supporters. Like the daughter of Nixon once said during the depths of the Watergate scandal, they should just let daddy rule. I think that is the sentiment of those ardent Trump fans.

Nixon had a good side. And he was in fact rehabilitated somewhat in the public eye and years later respected again for his knowledge of world affairs and statecraft.

Trump has no apparent good side. And in fact, I think he and his loyal following are proud of that. Good is weak.

I also suspect his following is overestimated.

As far as we know Trump was legitimately elected president. But he won without a majority of the votes by running the board in the Electoral College — hey winning is the game — and the fact that although his opponent was able to amass more votes, she somehow put off enough of her potential voters that they failed to show up at the polls. And she should have paid more attention to the dynamics of that Electoral College system.

One can suffer Trump policies and actions and take comfort in that it won’t last forever. The major concern should be his seeming mental instability and the fact that he could at a whim, in a fit, get us into World War III. He has the launch codes at his disposal.

Remember, there was concern about Nixon too in that regard. It was agreed behind his back that any orders to launch would not be immediately obeyed, if at all.

Let’s hope that exists in the Trump administration. Only problem is that it’s musical chairs in his staff. He keeps firing people and people keep leaving on their own accord and now he has problems recruiting anyone. Not much institutional memory there or ability to work together and protect us all against the boss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


If it’s going to cost money people not receptive to fighting climate change…

December 9, 2018
Note: here and there I repeat some observations I have made in previous posts. Just trying to maintain balance, although sometimes I think it reads like “and some still think the earth is flat”.
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When I read about the issue of climate change and what to do about it invariably it seems to devolve into an argument on whether we can afford to deal with it or whether we cannot afford not to.

I tend to fall into the category of we cannot afford not to, even if I may wonder if at my age, 69, I will see the difference either way. I have been witness in the past decade and more recently, in the past few months, of super-hot forest fires that are blamed at least in part on climate change. Fortunately I have not been a victim, but people I know have.

And I realize that some people choose to deny climate change or at least that it is has anything to do with man’s activity — why I am not sure.

Now I suppose there may be some argument as to the cause of climate change. Some people suggest that it is a natural progression of nature, that from day one planet Earth has been going through climate change. And we did have an ice age at one time and we still obviously have life on the planet (ok, I just looked it up. We’ve had more than one ice age).

But from what I gather, most scientists believe research has indicated we have gone beyond this natural cycle and that man’s activity, beyond that necessary to just live, has contributed to the degradation of our environment.

The original term for what is happening was “global warming”, still used sometimes. But the problem was that people, especially climate change skeptics, could not understand (or at least pretended not to for convenience) how if the earth’s atmosphere was warming, beyond what it should be, how that can cause extreme cold snaps in some areas.

 

And that brings me to another point. I mean I don’t understand all that either. Like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers (update that to in the news or on the internet). I confess. I have not read the actual texts of any of the myriad of scientific research papers or reports that have come out. And I am not planning to any time soon (although maybe I should). There are so many other things I’d rather read about. Besides I think I do what I can to protect the environment. I religiously put stuff in the recycle bin, only to read in the little report that comes in the city’s waste disposal bill that sometimes the stuff is not even recycled because China isn’t buying as much of it as it has thus there is no market place — and I always am told the free market takes care of everything (I observe about that later).

A day after Thanksgiving the government issued a report from scientists warning of dire consequences if something is not done soon to slow the acceleration of climate change (President Trump predictably disavowed it and continues with dismantling environmental regulations). But the do nothing crowd, such as the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal, seem to quibble with the economic figures. Maybe they with their business acumen are more knowledgeable than the scientists in that aspect (I don’t know), but where is the concern about clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and to protect us all from violent weather events that seem ever more frequent and that are blamed on climate change brought on by our appetite for fossil fuel, the exhaust of which is blamed for messing up the earth’s protective ozone layer? I guess the thought is that we can tough out the bad weather, move back from the rising sea levels, and walk down the street wearing gas masks, and drink filtered water, as long as our wallets are full of cash (although something tells me they will not be full of cash).

And then there is this way of looking at it: while some agree that indeed climate change will disrupt agriculture, in some cases it will amount to switching crops to other areas. Case in point: Canada is starting to become more favorable to corn and soybeans due to a change in the weather pattern that has created a longer growing season there, while some midwestern U.S. areas reportedly have become less favorable. So I guess if you are an investor in the global economy and not a farmer, who cares? Of course moving agriculture production out of country would seem to have dire consequences due to the fact much of the economy deals with support activity of farming and the cost of transporting product could become more expensive, although Canada is certainly closer than say Asia or Africa.

I keep reading claims by those opposed to instigating measures to deal with climate change that in reality all those research reports when they are actually analyzed beyond the headlines, or even their own summaries, do not back up all the reports of doom and gloom. Problem is, to figure out who is right or wrong I’d practically have to go back to college and major in the right field of science and then go over all the research and then make up my mind. And I am not going to do that.

Maybe I should be a bit more skeptical — skepticism can be healthy — but for now I think I just have to look for what seems to be the consensus among those who should know and do not have a vested interest that forces them to have blinders. So far it seems to be there is something going on beyond the unavoidable phenomenon of nature and it has to do with man’s progression into the industrial revolution and the burning of hydrocarbons and other things associated with all that.

And if something is not done we or our children or grandchildren (but probably we) will be living in something like the dense smoke that filled the air around where I live for several months over the summer and fall until we all just die off.

There is a movement to cut down on the emissions of hydrocarbons or to put it in language I am more comfortable with, exhaust. We are all well aware of the pollution controls they have put on our vehicle engines and those bothersome and sometimes expensive smog checks we have to get (expensive if repair is required).

One way to go about it is government regulation. I mean you can’t just have some people fighting pollution while others don’t. But then you get into politics. Conservatives claim to abhor government regulation, especially if they feel it costs them money or gets in the way of what they prefer to do, otherwise they seem ok with it if it follows their own policy preferences (that may be the way for liberals too; human nature).

One method to discourage the burning of fossil fuels is what is called a carbon tax. I guess fuel taxes are included in on this. But such taxes or increases in the standard fuel tax are usually not popular. They are a hard sell.

But another way to go, a more passive approach, is to let the market dictate.

And to a certain extent that can work wonders. Case in point:

(note: I have alluded to this in previous posts)

I’m a truck driver. I did not begin driving trucks until I was 46, back in 1995. But over the years I would hear drivers complain about the move toward fuel efficiency, especially if it had anything to do with cutting down on the power of their engines or slowing them down. Over and over again I would hear drivers proclaim that they had to keep their trucks going down the road at top speed, that their engines ran more efficiently at speeds 60 and above. But then several years ago now when we had peak oil prices and the price per gallon of diesel went north of $5 per gallon suddenly they changed their tune and in fact began bragging about how great of fuel mileage they were getting by slowing down. Yup, pain in the pocket-book will do it every time. But in this instance it was a pain brought on by natural market forces. In this instance no government control or red tape required.

And I applaud that. But what mechanism is there in the market place for forcing us to do the right thing if it costs us money instead of saving us money? I don’t have the answer for that.

The only thing I can think of is that we depend upon responsible leaders who will do the right thing and I guess make us feel confident and good about it all.

Not easy.

A hike in fuel taxes has sent thousands of French people into the streets. The government there is threatened with rebellion. And that should scare those in charge. Read history about the French Revolution.

(A Wall Street Journal opinion piece says it is not really the fuel taxes that sent people into the streets but the effects of too much socialist government policy that has stagnated the French economy, whatever.)

We may need to move toward alternative and non-carbon fuels faster than we are but it would help if innovations would come along that make it all more appealing and marketable.

And in the case of fuel taxes and the like it always hurts people down the scale in income — average workers and the poor — more than the upper class who don’t feel the economic pinch as readily or are willing to put up with it or anyone who does not have to depend upon personal transportation because they have ready access to public transportation and are comfortable with that.

There is this belief also that a lot of the call for environmental controls is some left-wing plot that is simply using climate change as a means to push its agenda. Ironies of ironies I think the right-wing is using the issue of pesky environmental controls as a distraction to rile up the uninformed or intentionally ignorant or uncaring masses. There may be fault on both ends of the political spectrum in all of this. All that is a distraction that needs to be bypassed by anyone who really cares about the well-being of the human race.

What I really do not understand however is the notion that we cannot afford to reverse the trend toward more and more pollution that science indicates is contributing to drastic climate change. Conservative and business oriented publications publish a lot of articles either despairing of or ridiculing efforts to save our environment and complaining they will bankrupt us. So we just do nothing or too little?

It is hard to plan and work towards our future but then the future comes upon us. But then it is too late.

p.s.

This past November California voters, 55 percent of them, defeated a ballot initiative that would have rolled back a gas tax increase. The tax which raises money that is supposed to go to road improvement finds support particularly in the urban areas that suffer from near 24-hour traffic snarls. We certainly need revenue to fix and maintain our roads. I cannot say whether that tax encourages less burning of fossil fuel, except that I see no evidence that it does — what I do see, both in the urban and rural areas, is huge fuel-guzzling pickup trucks, often hauling nothing, and other vehicles that I doubt are terribly fuel efficient. I’m not judging, just observing. It’s a free country. Still.