Archive for June, 2018

Dear Justice Kennedy: Why Now?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2018 by drmiller1960

Dear Justice Kennedy:

I just heard that you’ve announced your retirement as of July 31.  Congratulations.  At the age of 81, and with more than thirty years of service to the most demanding judicial position in the country, I have no doubt that you are ready to shake off your robe, slip on your loafers, and settle down with a good book.  I get it.  I really do.

But why now? Honestly, I don’t think you could have chosen a worse time if you had consulted with a necromancer to pick the most horrible day to leave the Supreme Court.  Your resignation is both too early and too late.  The reason why you are too early is blazingly apparent.  Our president, the American Nero, has shown a blatant disregard for the rule of law.  He scoffs at the notion of checks and balances. He is a poster child for bigotry.  And, in a move with the gravest implication for our country, he has even called for the suspension of due process for immigrants. He and his senatorial henchman Mitch McConnell are positively salivating at the idea of replacing you with a right-wing ideologue who has no regard for the rights of individuals. You are famous for your love of the First Amendment.  What chance will the Bill of Rights have in the hands of a Supreme Court packed with justices who mirror the anti-democratic concerns of a narcissist?

At the same time, your resignation is long overdue.  You have already penned or been the deciding vote in a slew of cases that have done (or promise to do) serious damage to the country.  Citizens United has already wreaked havoc on our electoral system.  I honestly believe that you did not intend to usher in an age of unfettered greed and corruption in our electoral process.  Indeed, you believed that the disclosure requirements in the election law would act as a limitation on donations.  But you underestimated the willingness of donors to give money to non-profit PACs that can hide the identity of their donors. Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit PAC set up by the Koch brothers, is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2018 mid-term election. I know that this was not your intention.  However, a quick glance at the out-sized impact of billionaire cranks like the Koch brothers on their Congressional lapdogs is ample proof that the law of unintended consequences is far more robust than my First Amendment right to petition my representatives.  Why should my Congressman/Senator/President listen to me when I do not have unlimited coffers to lavish on them?  Your rush to preserve the free speech rights of the super-rich has left my own rights gasping in the dust.

Your tender concern for the First Amendment rights of the powerful runs roughshod over the rights of individuals in other spheres as well.  Your concurrence in Hobby Lobby ensured that the religious objections of a closely held corporation trumped the health and privacy interests of its female employees.  And on the same day as your resignation, by joining the majority in Janus v. AFSCME, you held that mandatory union dues for non-union governmental employees constitute unconstitutional compelled speech—upending a forty-year precedent, and quite likely gutting the last, strongest bastion of organized labor.  Yes, you might have upheld an inchoate right of some workers not to participate, but at the probable cost of taking away the practical right of other workers to organize themselves, bargain terms and conditions with their employers, and protect themselves from unsafe work conditions.

Oh, I’m not saying that you are evil or a bad man.  In fact, you’ve done many good things, especially regarding the rights of the LGBTQ community.  You made many of my friends extremely happy when you wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell, upholding, in moving, beautiful terms, the Constitutional right to same sex marriages.  But lately, in a string of decisions ranging from the travel ban, to the rights of women to receive full and accurate medical information when they are pregnant, to full minority access to Texan ballot boxes, the Supreme Court has shown a distressing willingness to disregard the needs and rights of the vulnerable, the poor, and the disenfranchised.  Oh, you wrote concurrences, and you didn’t necessarily agree with all of the points being made by the majority.  But the result remains:  you let down the very people who need Constitutional protection the most.

So, farewell, Justice Kennedy.  Enjoy your retirement.  I hope you can sleep at night.

©2018 D.R. Miller

 

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Presidential Grammar 101: Commonly Misused Words and Phrases

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2018 by drmiller1960

PART TWO

I know that words can be difficult, especially in legal situations-that’s why I’m offering the following guidance to our president.

It’s Mueller Time!

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the stress from having Robert Mueller breathing down his neck.  Maybe he doesn’t want to get his buddy Vlad in trouble.  Maybe he’s just as guilty as sin. But for some reason Trump’s vocabulary really snaps its tether whenever he talks about the Russia investigation. Here are just three examples of what I mean.

No collusion!

With the soul-deadening regularity of a dripping faucet at midnight, Trump inserts the phrase “no collusion” into nearly every communication he broadcasts—regardless of its relevance or otherwise to the subject at hand. It’s interesting that Trump has glommed onto this particular word.

“Collusion” occurs when you enter into an agreement with someone to do something illegal or nefarious. As long as that is all you do, then you’ve committed no crime.  Outside of the antitrust context, where “collusion” is used to describe illegal practices such as price fixing and bid rigging, it is not in and of itself a criminal act.  However, as soon as you take an overt action to bring that agreement into fruition, then you’ve committed the crime of conspiracy. Here.  I’ll show you what I mean by using a wild-eyed hypothetical.

Let’s say that you and I are senior campaign officials for an amoral, racist, sexually predatory billionaire who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning unless he gets help from a traditionally hostile country. You and I talk it over, and we agree that we really should get in touch with officials from that country and see if they can dish up any dirt on our opposition.  Up to that point, you and I have colluded because inviting a hostile foreign power to interfere in our elections is both illegal and nefarious, but we have not conspired.  Therefore, no criminal act has occurred.

Now imagine that we get an email from the friend of a friend, saying that a highly placed lawyer from that country has the nasty on our opponent.  Rubbing our hands in glee, we have our girl call their girl and set up a meeting with the lawyer.  We’ve just taken an overt step in order to realize our illegal intent, and therefore, we’ve entered into a conspiracy to violate federal election laws. It wouldn’t even matter if the meeting fell through or if the meeting were a nothing-burger because all the lawyer talked about was foreign adoptions—it’s still a conspiracy.  So, Trump’s constant insistence that he didn’t commit collusion is irrelevant and nonsensical because Mueller isn’t going to indict him for collusion.  No, no, no, no! Mueller is going to fry Trump’s ass for conspiracy.

Exonerate

This is a new quirk for Trump, and strictly speaking, it really has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation. But since when does anything to do with Trump rely upon logical connections?  Briefly, Trump started using the second definition of  “exonerate” , to clear or absolve from blame, shortly after the DOJ’s Inspector General issued his report on the FBI’s conduct of their investigations into Hillary’s emails.  Donald had a hard on (ewww) for this report to come out because he thought the IG would find that the FBI was acting with animus against him.  If this were the case, Trump would have some merit in claiming that the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt” (see below).

After an exhaustive review, the DOJ IG pretty much found that, other than some insubordination on Comey’s part, along with some snarky texts between a couple of FBI lovebirds, everything about the FBI’s investigation was above-board.  This is pretty much what one would expect—after all, if the FBI were conspiring to help Hillary beat Donald, one would hope that they would have succeeded.  I mean, they are supposed to be the best of the best, right?

Trump is right to point out that there is exoneration going on, but his yuge mistake is to assume it was directed at him.  That’s a major problem for narcissists:  it’s tough when they realize that it isn’t all about them.  To be “exonerated” by something, the instrument of exoneration actually has to be relevant to the deed for which one is being exonerated.  Otherwise, my dog could say it was exonerated for ripping apart my slippers because my parrot said the cat was out of the room when it happened.  Right now (but give the NY State’s Attorney General time), the major cloud hanging over Trump’s head is, you guessed it, the Mueller investigation.  However,  the IG said absolutely nada, zip, rien, about the issues underlying the Mueller investigation, so it’s hard to see how Trump is exonerated.  The only way that this report could exonerate Donald is if he were a member of the FBI team investigating Hillary’s emails.

And now that I think of it, given the impact Comey had on the election, maybe this isn’t as crazy a thought as it first appears.

Witch hunt!

Now this is a phrase with an interesting little history.  Like most metaphors, “witch-hunt” started out its linguistic life as a real thing.  Even before the Salem witch trials, there were those who hunted out witches.  The Pendle Hill witch trials of 1612, for example, claimed the lives of eleven innocent people (one died in prison, the other ten were hanged).  The estimate of how many people were killed for being witches varies wildly, but one reasonable estimation is 40,000 people were executed as witches over two hundred years, the large majority of whom were women.  In fact, maybe it isn’t too much of a stretch to characterize the original witch hunts as state-sponsored, misogyny-fueled, mass murder of women.

It was only (relatively) lately that the term took on its political overtones.  While Arthur Miller drew direct lines between McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials in the introduction to his play, The Crucible, the first recorded use of the term in its political sense was in 1919.  Like its later incarnation in the 50’s, the 1919 use of “witch hunt” was in response to a Senatorial investigation of Communism.  Crazy, huh?

Now it’s Trump’s turn to claim victimhood, which is hysterically ironic on several levels.  First, it’s pretty rich for Trump, a self-professed sexual predator, to latch onto a term that originally described anti-female violence.  Next, Trump is not subject to scrutiny because of his lofty political beliefs or because of his gender.  Instead, he is subject to scrutiny because his greed, ambition, and narcissism have led him to commit acts of a treasonous nature.  Allegedly.  Similarly, unlike “witchcraft,” obstruction of justice or conspiracy to have Russia interfere with our presidential election is a thing—a real, provable thing that relies on more than hearsay and unreliable testimony to demonstrate its existence.  Emails, texts, and bank records are just a few of the tools Mueller has used to already secure over twenty indictments and five guilty pleas.

Finally, the hallmark of the traditional victim of a witch hunt is that she is innocent.  Now, some people are saying that Trump isn’t innocent.  I don’t know.  We’ll see what happens.  Believe me.

©2018 D. R. Miller

Presidential Grammar 101: Commonly Misused Words and Phrases

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 21, 2018 by drmiller1960

PART ONE

As a writer, teacher, and lawyer, words are  important to me.  They are, after all, my stock in trade.  But beyond that, I also have a deep-rooted love for language—the way it can convey complex emotions and vivid images.  How you can lay out the simplest instructions or the most arcane philosophies.  English, in particular, is a wonderful language.  We have so many words!  So many that not even the folk at the Oxford English Dictionary can tell us precisely how large the English lexicon is—although they can tell you that the OED “contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as sub-entries.”  Hot damn!

With so many words, it’s natural that mistakes will be made.  Why, just the other day, I realized that in “Vultures,” I said “amendable” when I meant “amenable.”  An easy enough mistake to make, but there is a big difference between the two words.  “Amenable” means “willing to accept or be influenced by a suggestion.”  “Amendable” means that a piece of writing is capable of having its wording changed—so a statute is amendable.  Trump, on the other hand, is neither amendable nor amenable (at least to reason).  See the difference?

So, yeah.  Even Critical Thinking teachers can flub a word or two.  And, as much as it pains me to say this, our president also gets his words wrong from time to time.  That’s right, folks:  even though he has the best words, they are not always the right ones.  “Beautiful,” and “Strongly” have bothd been Trumped beyond recognition. But there are other examples of President Malaprop’s assault on the English language that also deserve some attention.  This is a pretty broad topic, so I’ll be publishing this essay over two blogs.  This blog will deal with general words and phrases that Trump can’t (or, more likely, won’t) handle, while the second will consider how the Mueller investigation has caused Trump to really forget how to use his words.

General Words and Phrases

As sure as God made little green apples, you can count on Trump to pepper language with certain stock phrases.  Sadly, despite the apparently self-evident sense of his words (they’re damned near onomatopoeic, for the love of Mike), Trump obviously doesn’t grasp their meaning.  Life is too short for an exhaustive list, but there are three that are especially irritating noticeable.

We’ll see what happens

This particular expression features in just about every situation when Trump is asked a direct question about the outcome of any given policy, statement, or whim.  It just ain’t a day in Trumpland if we aren’t left eagerly anticipating what will happen.  The man seems congenitally unable to hazard a guess about the consequences of anything.  This is hardly a comforting notion:  the most powerful man in the world should have at least an inkling of what might happen. And this is precisely where Trump misuses his favorite catchphrase:  while it literally means that we’re just going to twiddle our thumbs while waiting to see what happens, its emotional message is, “well, maybe you will have to see what happens, but I have a pretty good idea what will happen.”  But even the most inept interpreter of body language can look at how Trump shrugs his shoulders and gazes at his interlocutor with a Bambi meeting Godzilla look, and realize he doesn’t know what the fuck will happen.

Given the vast array of unknown unknowns Trump has unleashed on the world, I just hope we all live long enough to see what happens.

Believe me

Normally, people don’t even have to say, “believe me.”  Usually one’s word is credible, unless and until proven otherwise.  Indeed, the fact that the speaker is demanding belief on the part of the listener is a pretty good indication that the speaker does not have the best reputation for credibility:  otherwise, why demand what is normally freely given?  So it would appear to me that, if one finds it necessary to say “believe me,” it would behoove that person to be believable.  Alas, Trump seems to have missed this point entirely.  The more he begs to be believed, the greater the chance that he’s trying to sell you a hot bag of fertilizer.

The Washington Monthly published a helpful list of the scores of topics that trust in Trump’s credibility would have been futile indeed, including:

  • How little time he would have to play golf
  • How not all of the tiki-torchers in Charlottesville were Nazis (He might get partial credit for this one. Apparently, some of them were Klansmen)
  • His great respect for women
  • How he’ll make America great

So, when you hear Trump say, “believe me,” just assume that he’s fucking with your mind.  Because he is.

People are saying or thinking or whatever

Usually, when someone says “people are saying,” they mean that there is a general topic of conversation that has everyone wagging their tongues.  So, when Der President pronounces that “people are saying…,” it is usual to expect that lots and lots of people are saying …. For example, just the other week, I expected to walk out the door and hear my neighbors buzzing about how they all thought Trump should get the Nobel Prize for Peace.  Imagine my surprise when such was not the case.  In fact, I couldn’t find one single person who thought he should—and I looked a lot.  The most charitable explanation is that when he listens to his coterie, Trump also hears the legions of demons possessing their souls, and mistakes them for people saying things.  But the more likely explanation is that Trump is merely trying to whip up support for his “ideas” or conjure opposition to things he doesn’t like through a blatant (if unsubstantiated) appeal to popularity.  So in truth, “People are saying…” actually means “Donald Trump wants…”

But seriously, does that actually surprise you?

©2018 D.R. Miller

Vultures

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2018 by drmiller1960

The fact that the White House has initiated a policy of separating immigrant children from their families does not shock me.  Trump’s personal animus against people of color is not only well documented, but also deep-rooted.  After all, Trump cemented his friendship with Roy Cohn when Cohn defended Donald in a suit alleging that the Trump refused to rent to black tenants.  Trump railed against the Central Park Five—one Latino and four African American kids accused of raping, bludgeoning, and leaving for dead a young woman jogging in the park—and called for their execution in full-page ads in four papers. Even after they were exonerated conclusively of the crime, Trump still insisted that they were guilty.  And who could ever forget Trump’s pronouncement during the announcement of his candidacy that Mexicans coming to America, with very few possible exceptions, were drug lords, criminals, and rapists?  And don’t forget how he felt about all those “shithole countries” in Africa (except for Nambia, of course, whose health system, and, presumably, covfefe fields, are second to none).  No, Donald is a dyed in the wool racist who makes Archie Bunker look like George McGovern.

Naturally, Trump is not the first racist to occupy the White House, nor, sadly, is he likely to be the last.  However, previous presidents (at least those since the 1960’s) had the sense to realize that their racism was an embarrassment and not an asset.  Before Donald slithered onto the stage, openly bigoted politicians and officials generally did not have a long and fruitful public career.  Remember how we rolled on the floor laughing until our ribs hurt when David Duke, former grand poohbah of the KKK, ran for Senate?  And even if the pols were too stupid to hide their racism, they had advisors and handlers who hushed them and explained what they “really meant” to the media.  Not so with The Donald.  Trump famously marches along to the beat of his own whack-a-doodle drummer.  But even if he were amenable to persuasion, who in his coterie of advisors would actually say, “Stop, Donald! Don’t do such a stupid, immoral, and just plain evil thing”?

Certainly not Confederate flag-hugging Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions.  Nor scion of a liberal Jewish family Stephen Miller, whose penchant for anti-Semitic insults is so bizarre that I wouldn’t blink an eye if I found out that he had started a college group called “Jews for Hitler.”  And certainly not the so-called adult in the room, General John Kelly, who only last month asserted it was not cruel to rip families apart.  I kind of had my hopes on Ivanka stepping forward, but all I’ve heard from her are crickets—presumably she’s too busy baking files into cakes for Jared’s future use, just in case.

So, no, I’m not at all surprised that the Trump regime has engendered and enforced a “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration that depends upon ripping nursing babies out of their mothers’ arms to act as a deterrent.  It is entirely within Trump’s “moral” compass to embrace a policy that is neither legally required nor morally just.  And given his well-documented obstinacy and absolute refusal to apologize for absolutely anything, I bet he’ll just dig his heels in more fiercely in the face of opposition from Congressional Democrats (and a few Republicans), his own wife, Former First Lady Laura Bush, religious leaders, or even, believe it or not, Franklin Graham.

Donald is a lost cause.  He doesn’t have a decent bone in his body.  A snarling, embittered bag of hatred, greed, and hypocrisy, of course he likes the idea of grinding the most vulnerable people into the dust.  How else would this totally inadequate human being feel powerful?

But the people I do wonder about are the ones who enable this policy. The ICE officer who tells a mother that she’s taking her daughter “for a bath” as a ruse to separate them (how’s that for Holocaust imagery?).  The shelter employee who obeys an order not to comfort a screaming toddlerThe contractor who rakes in government money to run these holding pens. The bus driver whose passengers are young, terrified, and on their way to their hell. The company that sells the tents to construct kiddie concentration camps.  The Senate Majority Leader who refuses to hold his party’s leader to account. The DOJ attorney who drafted this policy.  The judges who deny legal representation to an immigrant child.  Any serious Holocaust historian will tell you that complicity in the infrastructure of an atrocity runs deep.  The Facebook reader who passively scrolls past an article about a two-year-old screaming for her mommy. If you participate at any level in this abomination, then you are complicit—no matter how queasy, regretful, or sorry you feel. At the very best, you are no better than Michael Palin’s “good Roman Soldier,” Nisus Wettus, in The Life of Brian—the one who mournfully guides the Romans’ victims to the proper place of execution.  “Crucifixion?  Good. Out the door.  Line on the left.  One cross each.”

I used to teach a poem by Chinua Achebe called “Vultures.”  In this great little poem, Achebe ponders the nature of human evil.  How could the commandant of Belsen concentration camp stop off at a candy store on his way home, “with fumes of/human roast clinging/rebelliously to his hairy/ nostrils,” and buy a chocolate “for his tender offspring”? How can love co-exist in a monster’s heart?  The answer, I think, is that there is no such thing as a monster—that all monstrous people have a spark of love in their core.  But the flip side is also true—that good people have a spark of evil in their core (“in the very germ/of that kindred love is/lodged the perpetuity/ of evil”).  Good people can do evil things as surely as evil people can do good things—and that is what makes evil perpetual.

Look folks, this issue is not about immigration policy. It isn’t even about the wall.  It’s about whether good people will allow an outrage to continue.  Take a stand.  Be counted.  Don’t fall for what-aboutism or apathy. Even if you can’t quit your job at ICE, at least call your representative.  Be a witness for what you see.  Join Sleeping Giants and contact the companies whose goods and services transform Steven Miller’s  anti-immigrant fever dream into a reality.  And for the love of all that is good and worthwhile, never, for even a single instant, think that what is going on is normal, acceptable, or justified.  Act as if your soul depended on it.

©2018 D.R. Miller

 

 

 

Presidential Grammar 101: Aphorisms, Adages, and Proverbs

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2018 by drmiller1960

I know.  We’ve all been there.  You’re snoozing away in your cozy bed, adrift in the Land of Nod, and then you wake up, in a cold sweat and with your heart pounding.  What, you find yourself asking, is the difference between an aphorism, an adage, and a proverb?  It’s not as easy as you might think, actually, so your midnight panic attack is entirely understandable.  Luckily for you, I am ready, as ever, to help you out.

According to the fine folk at Smart Words (and who am I to say otherwise?) an aphorism is a pithy and memorably phrased statement of a truth or an opinion.  One of my favorite examples of an aphorism is from Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance”: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers, and divines.”  Seriously, isn’t that just the most beautifully expressed critique of people who relentlessly demand conformity for the mere sake of conformity? You know, the kind of crank who holds rallies and demands total submission to whatever cockamamy idea or outright lie he’s spouting off? Another aphorism that keeps buzzing through my mind these days (goodness only knows why) is Lord Acton’s famous dictum that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Short, to the point, and easy to remember:  I’d happily posit that these two are pretty much perfect examples of aphorisms.

An adage appears to be a grown-up aphorism that has passed the test of time and slipped into common usage. Alexander Pope is responsible for quite a few aphorisms that have morphed into adages: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast;” “To err is human; to forgive, divine;” “Fools rush in where angels fear to dread;” etc.  The words trip out of the speaker’s mouth so naturally that it is easy to forget that they were once original thoughts. I find adages frightfully earnest, mainly because they have lost whatever irony they might have had when first uttered. People say them, thinking that they are pointing out some profound truth, when actually Pope was a pretty sarcastic man capable of saying some caustic things. I mean, my goodness, he doesn’t have a lot of faith in the human capacity for wisdom, forgiveness, or realism, does he?  However, whatever sharpness his finely wrought words once held has been smoothed out from constant repetition over the ages.  Maybe it’s the fact that Pope was a poet, lending an innate cadence to his words that makes you stop noticing how cynical he’s being.  That’s the peril of becoming an adage: unthinking repetition causes the words to lose their glint, and they run the danger of becoming tawdry clichés.   (On the other hand, I can’t imagine Dorothy Parker’s aphorism that “you can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think” will ever attain the status of an adage!)

So, what are proverbs, then?  Well, again according to Smart Words, a proverb is “a simple and short saying, widely known, often metaphorical, which expresses a basic truth or practical precept, based on common sense or cultural experience.”  In other words, these sayings are so old that they seem to have sprung up from some well in the depths of our collective consciousness.  “A watched pot never boils.”  “Birds of a feather flock together.” “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  But since we’re talking about language, there are, of course, exceptions to this rule.  Some of our best-known proverbs in English (“Early to bed, early to rise, etc.”) are attributable to Benjamin Franklin.  So much for the non-attribution of proverbs, huh?

All of this is great fun, of course, but you’re probably wondering why I brought this fascinating subject up in the first place.  Well, I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve noticed that a number of aphorisms, proverbs, and adages have become scarily literal.  In general, figures of speech are metaphorical, dammit, and they should stay that way.  What’s weirder is that other sayings seemed to have disappeared as completely as Rudy Giuliani’s sanity.

For example, significant members of the Trump family appear to have taken the adage that “charity begins at home” quite literally indeed. The general understanding of this saying is that your first responsibility is to yourself and your family; if you don’t take care of them, then you can’t help others.  Dickens, with his characteristic subtlety, used Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House to outrageously lampoon people who neglect this primary responsibility. Mrs. J. gleefully spends all her time worrying about setting up a mission in Africa instead of tending to her frightfully feral children.  Needless to say, her African venture isn’t much of a success, either. The Trumps, on the other hand, appear to be the anti-Jellybys. Their charity is all about the home. In fact, not only does charity start chez Trump, but it is locked up good and tight and never allowed to see the light of day.  According to the Attorney General of New York, the Trump Foundation is not so much a philanthropic entity as an ancillary checking account.  And some of the allegations are so outrageous (for example, the Board had not met for nineteen years, and the official treasurer had no idea that he held the position), that a reader might be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Dickens had written the petition.

An example of an aphorism coming to life is Shakespeare’s statement from The Merchant of Venice that “the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”  Just the other day, Attorney General Jefferson Beau-regard Sessions quoted Romans 13:1 (“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Sorry if this isn’t the version Sessions quoted, but I simply adore the King James Version, don’t you?))  Given the fondness our Attorney General has for the Confederate flag, it should come as no surprise that he would quote this particular verse:  it was, after all, used by slaveholders to justify adherence to the Fugitive Slave Act.  No—what I found shocking was the malicious gleam in his eyes and, dare I say it?, his impish smile.  Seriously—watch it here.  And then tell me this:  are those liver spots on his forehead, or are they just where he hides his horns?

As for proverbs, well look no farther than Scott Pruitt.  The head of the EPA is literally “muddying the waters” and “taking up all the oxygen in the room.”  And just between us, I think the real reason why Sarah Huckleberry Slanders always wear dresses is that she’s terrified that her pants will spontaneously combust from telling one too many lies.

But just as the White House has become a veritable tableau vivant of some old sayings, there are quite a few that are MIA:  “the buck stops here,” “honesty is the best policy,” and “follow the golden rule,” for example, appear to have been utterly banished.  Trump seems to have taken “make new friends” to heart, as he ignites a bromance with Kim Jong Un ( Gosh! I hope Vlad isn’t jealous!), yet he seems to have allowed the second part (“but keep the old”) to fall by the wayside at the last G-7 summit.  And here’s the weirdest one of all:  Trump’s own aphorism to “drain the swamp” came alive when a  sinkhole appeared on the White House lawn, but its metaphorical meaning—to eradicate corruption—has gone so thoroughly AWOL that one doubts it will ever be seen again!  It seems to have morphed into a linguistic Schrodinger’s cat:  simultaneously here and not here.

Crazy, huh?

©2018 D.R. Miller

 

Have You No Sense of Decency?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2018 by drmiller1960

“Have you no sense of decency?” Joseph Nye Welch, counselor to the U.S. Army, asked Joseph McCarthy after the honorable Senator from Wisconsin assassinated the character of Fred Fisher, a young lawyer in Welch’s firm.  The answer, apparently, was “no.”  McCarthy clearly had no sense of decency left.

It’s funny how history enjoys repeating itself.  Earlier in the hearing, Welch had demanded that Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s chief counsel, provide the U.S. Attorney General with the list of 130 “known subversives” McCarthy had alleged existed in the Army—and to do it before sundown.  Rather than respond substantively to Welch’s demand, McCarthy resorted to a personal smear against someone who wasn’t even in the room. Sound like a familiar presidential tactic to you? You might also recall that Cohn was Trump’s favorite lawyer—so much so, that Michael Cohen seems to have modeled his own charming MO after Cohn’s. Oh, how time mirrors itself!

But I’m not addressing this question to the Commander of Cheese.  First of all, he’s too easy a mark.  From ripping babies from their mothers’ arms to engaging in the greatest grift-a-thon in the history of the Republic, the evidence of Trump’s lack of decency is too exhausting to enumerate.  Second, it’s been done already:  a quick Google search reveals that Warren Buffett, Jeff Flake, Politico, and Kos all used Welch’s rhetorical question as entrée to a well-deserved Trump trashing.  Done and dusted. Finally, Trump’s answer is so obviously “Nope” that it isn’t even worth asking the question.

Instead, my question is directed to all those patriots who just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary because of her email server and Benghazi.  If these sins were so grave, then why are they maintaining such a stalwart silence in the face of Trump’s even more alarming trespasses?

During the 2016 election, Trump’s supporters and surrogates used whataboutisms with ninja precision to avoid answering embarrassing questions about their standard bearer.  For every question raised about Trump’s mendacity, racism, or just about anything, his supporters would counter with, “What about her emails?” or “What about Benghazi?”  Throughout the 2016 campaign, we were inundated with all kinds of right-wing outrage about Hillary’s emails.  Emails, emails, emails.  She used a personal server.  She deleted 30,000 emails.  She threatened national security.  Burn the witch! Benghazi, in particular, became such a favorite stalking horse for the GOP that the mother of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens pleaded with the Republicans for “an immediate and permanent stop to this opportunistic and cynical use” of her son’s death.  It was a master class in the art of laying red herrings.

But now, nary a word about Trump’s obstinate use of an eminently hackable cell phone to send out his tweets.

In fact, in the face of all of the revelations about Trump’s highly questionable business links with Russian oligarchs, not to mention his campaign manager’s ties to a pro-Russian Ukrainian strongman, what do I hear?  On a good day, all I hear is crickets.  Usually, though, the response is “witch hunt,” “13 angry Democrats,” or “it’s time to wrap up Mueller’s investigation.”  Incredibly, I also hear “Hillary’s emails.” Frankly, I find this position as insulting to my intelligence as it is farcical.  Do I really need to remind Trump’s supporters that in little over a year Mueller (a lifelong Republican, by the way) has indicted twenty people or entities, and that five of them have pled guilty?  Compare this to Benghazi:  after a two-year investigation with thirty-three closed hearings and 4 public, Chaffetz’s committee released an eight-hundred page report that had all the explosive nature of a fart in a bathtub. Turns out, Hillary wasn’t the Bitch of Benghazi after all. And Fox News is seriously saying that the Mueller investigation is unproductive?  As if.

Of course Fox will downplay any attack on Trump.  He’s their man, and they have to watch his back.  But what about those voters who couldn’t stomach Hillary’s Benghazi sins?  Where is their outrage?  Where is their patriotic concern for our nation’s security?  I seek it here, I seek it there, but I cannot find it anywhere.  And it isn’t as if there is a lack of opportunities to express moral outrage.  Everyday, Trump and his coterie of kleptocrats engage in the kind of corrupt behavior that would make Boss Tweed blush.  Do we really think it was a mere coincidence that Ivanka Trump got a slew of Chinese trademarks approved right after Daddy supported removing sanctions against ZTE? Do we really expect Scott Pruitt to be fired for ethical violations when he’s doing such a bang-up job of ripping apart the EPA, per the Koch brothers’ request?  And are we really surprised when Vlad’s puppet rips apart our oldest alliances and attacks our strongest trade partners?

The loyalty of Trump’s supporters in the face of these transgressions is nothing if not breathtaking.  It would be a thing of beauty if it were not so insidious. But Trump’s base is so fanatical that fear of upsetting it has paralyzed the GOP and made Congress forget its Constitutional duties to act as a check on the Executive.  Mitch McConnell is looking less like a malign turtle and more like a deer caught in the headlights every day.  If I were cynical, I would think that Trump’s base is more interested in soothing some misplaced sense of injury than in upholding the nation’s best interests.  Heaven forfend!  But I simply cannot help asking the 38% this simple question:

Have you no sense of decency?

 

©2018 D.R. Miller