What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 18, 2017

T-Minus 2 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (The Beginning)

Donald Trump will be sworn in in a couple of days.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 (or so) years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

January 20, 2009.

In his first inaugural address President Barack Obama said this:
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
Exactly four years later, in his second inaugural address, he said this:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

And for more than two hundred years, we have.
I shudder to think what the (at least) next four years will look like. 

Will we even recognize ourselves then?

As we contemplate the corrupt, bigoted, thin-skinned, incompetent, and dishonest man who'll be taking the oath of office this Friday, we should all be thinking about what we're losing as a nation.

We used to be able to claim that we were the good guys (whether that's true is a completely separate question).  We used to be able to claim that, politics aside, there's an inherent goodness in the American character - that we support the expansion of freedom and justice everywhere (again, whether that's true in practice is a separate question).  But with 60 million or so of our citizens either OK with or OK-enough with Trump's various indecencies to vote for him, we can no longer any of claim that.

Instead, there's a man who, the moment he takes the oath is violating the very Constitution he just swore to uphold.

And the only hope of any sort of oversight would have to come from a Congress dominated by Senators and Representatives voted in by the same MAGA-hatted who were OK with Trump's indecencies in the first place. 

Best of luck to us on that.

What will we look like in 4 years?  Will we recognize ourselves then?

January 17, 2017

Thank You, Rep. Mike Doyle!

(My Congressperson!)
(We're up to 50 not attending now with three from PA.)

T-Minus 3 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (Race And America III)

Donald Trump will be sworn in in a few days.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 (or so) years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

I want to revisit President Obama's speech on race given a few months before the 2008 election.

He said, in part:
But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
This was followed by more than a few years of Donald Trump's racist birtherism.

From which he "retreated" this past September but then proceeded to lie about it (twice) anyway.

Ponder what we're gaining and what we're losing.

January 16, 2017

T-Minus 4 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (Race And America II)

Donald Trump will be sworn in later this week.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 (or so) years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

August 28, 2013.

At the Ceremony Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, President Barack Obama said:
We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV. Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters. They lived in towns where they couldn’t vote and cities where their votes didn’t matter. They were couples in love who couldn’t marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten, and children fire-hosed, and they had every reason to lash out in anger, or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught -- that freedom is not given, it must be won, through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day. That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought to that day. That was the spirit that they carried with them, like a torch, back to their cities and their neighborhoods. That steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come -- through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches far from the spotlight; through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, and the carnage of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the agony of Dallas and California and Memphis. Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt, that flame of justice flickered; it never died.

And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed. Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes.  Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed, and Congress changed, and, yes, eventually, the White House changed.

Because they marched, America became more free and more fair...
I want you to note who Obama mentions in the fourth paragraph - that would be Representative John Lewis of the Georgia fifth congressional district.

You can watch his speech at that march in 1963 here (transcript can be found here).

A few days ago in an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, Lewis said this of Donald Trump:
CHUCK TODD: You have forged relationships with many presidents. Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD: You do not consider him a legitimate president?


CHUCK TODD: Why is that?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don't plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I've been in the Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.
A few minutes later, Chuck Todd said:
A day after Congressman John Lewis told me he doesn't believe Trump is a legitimately elected president, Trump responded, tweeting "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk, no action or results. Sad."
You'll note Lewis wasn't "falsely complaining" about anything. It's simply a fact that a Russian intelligence operation influenced the 2016 Presidential Election. The US Intelligence Community says so.  (So that's a lie.  And saying that  the Georgia 5th is "in horrible shape" is, in itself, a racist smear.)

In any event, for Representative Lewis (and a lot of other people as well) Russian interference with what should've been an open election is enough to call into question the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.  Forever

In any event, in the spirit of what President Obama said in 2013, what Representative John Lewis said a few days ago and what Donald Trump said a few hours later, I want to point out that:
President-elect Donald Trump canceled plans to spend Martin Luther King Day at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture — losing a chance for much-needed goodwill after his feud with a civil rights leader.

The incoming president, who spent this weekend waging a war of words with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), had planned to visit the national museum in Washington, D.C. on Martin Luther King Day.

But senior level transition sources told ABC News on Sunday the visit was called off due to unspecified “scheduling issues.”
"Scheduling issues" keeping Trump away from the museum on Martin Luther King Day.

I'll leave it to you, now, to ponder the America we've had for the last 8 years and the America we will have for the next 4.

January 15, 2017

T-Minus 5 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (Race And America)

Donald Trump will be sworn in in a under a week.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 (or so) years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

A few months before the 2008 election, then-Senator Barack Obama felt it necessary to explain his relationship with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Seems that the good Reverend Wright preached a few things that caused all who heard them to be seized with trepidation and dread (or at least they acted like it).

Obama went beyond and used it as a frame to talk about race in America.  He said:
"We the people… in order to form a more perfect union…."

Two hundred and twenty-one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars, statesmen and patriots who had traveled across the ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed, but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution—a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part—through protests and struggles, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience, and always at great risk—to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this presidential campaign: to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for president at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together—unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction: towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.
We may not come from the same place but we all want to move in the same direction, right?

And yet, from the Washington Post we read:
The idea of a so-called Muslim registry or Muslim database has been back in the news in recent days after a pair of high-profile Donald Trump supporters rekindled it.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — formerly rumored to be a candidate for Trump's attorney general — talked to Reuters on Tuesday about the Trump administration implementing one. By Wednesday, Trump surrogate Carl Higbie cited Japanese American internment camps during World War II as “precedent” for doing such a thing.
But it can't happen here, can it?

Perhaps it can - now we should ponder what we're losing in a week.

January 14, 2017

T-Minus 6 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (Facts, Evidence, Reason And Logic)

Donald Trump will be sworn in in a under a week.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

May 15, 2015.

In a Commencement Address at Rutgers, President Obama said:
Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science -- these are good things.  These are qualities you want in people making policy. These are qualities you want to continue to cultivate in yourselves as citizens. That might seem obvious. That's why we honor Bill Moyers or Dr. Burnell.

We traditionally have valued those things. But if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It's not cool to not know what you're talking about. That's not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That's not challenging political correctness. That's just not knowing what you're talking about. And yet, we've become confused about this.

Look, our nation’s Founders -- Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson -- they were born of the Enlightenment. They sought to escape superstition, and sectarianism, and tribalism, and know-nothingness. They believed in rational thought and experimentation, and the capacity of informed citizens to master our own fates. That is embedded in our constitutional design. That spirit informed our inventors and our explorers, the Edisons and the Wright Brothers, and the George Washington Carvers and the Grace Hoppers, and the Norman Borlaugs and the Steve Jobses. That's what built this country.
But when our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.
And yet:
Even though ten years earlier, the science was clear:
This eighth and final report of the Immunization Safety Review Committee examines the hypothesis that vaccines, specifically the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines, are causally associated with autism. The committee reviewed the extant published and unpublished epidemiological studies regarding causality and studies of potential biologic mechanisms by which these immunizations might cause autism.

The committee concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. The committee also concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.
Except that there's no evidence to actually back it up.

And we already know about Trump's fact-free claims about the thousands of Arabs celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey and, of course, the Chinese origins of climate science.

Ignorance is not a virtue.

Ponder that as you ponder the next few years.

January 13, 2017

T-Minus 7 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (Supreme Court II)

Donald Trump will be sworn in in a week.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

May 10, 2010.

President Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the United States Supreme Court.  In his remarks, he said this:
But while Elena had a brilliant career in academia, her passion for the law is anything but academic. She has often referred to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, as her hero. I understand that he reciprocated by calling her “Shorty.” (Laughter.) Nonetheless, she credits him with reminding her that, as she put it, “behind law there are stories -- stories of people’s lives as shaped by the law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by the law…”

That understanding of law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena’s career -- including her service as Solicitor General today.
I think that says a great deal not just about Elena’s tenacity, but about her commitment to serving the American people. I think it says a great deal about her commitment to protect our fundamental rights, because in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.
And at her confirmation on August 6, he said:
And it is yet another example of how our union has become more, not less, perfect over time -- more open, more fair, more free. That’s not just a matter of accident or chance. While those founding truths about liberty and equality may have been self-evident, they are not self-perpetuating. And it is the members of our highest court who do the vital and constant work of ensuring that they endure. And that's work that I am confident Elena will carry out with integrity, with humanity, and an abiding commitment to the ideal inscribed above our courthouse doors: equal justice under the law.
Meanwhile, in the transition:
President-elect Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he would place his vast business empire in a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and take other steps in an attempt to remove any suggestion of a conflict of interest with his decisions as president. But he said he would not sell his holdings.

Hours later, the government’s top ethics monitor said the plan was wholly inadequate and would leave the president vulnerable to “suspicions of corruption.”
Time to ponder yet again exactly what it is we're losing.

January 12, 2017

T-Minus 8 days Until The Beginning Of The Trump Presidency (LGBT Recognition)

Donald Trump will be sworn in in a little over a week.  As we ponder that panic, let's look back at a few episodes from the past 8 years - all with the understanding that Trump would never/could never be able to accomplish any of it.

After the panic, we should ponder what we're losing.

November 16, 2016:

From the White House press office press release announcing the most recent Presidential Medal Of Freedom recipients:
Ellen DeGeneres is an award-winning comedian who has hosted her popular daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003 with her trademarked humor, humility, and optimism. In 2003 Ellen lent her voice to a forgetful but unforgettable little fish named Dory in Finding Nemo. She reprised her role again in 2016 with the hugely successful Finding Dory. Ellen also hosted the Academy Awards twice, in 2007 and 2014. In 1997, after coming out herself, DeGeneres made TV history when her character on Ellen revealed she was a lesbian. In her work and in her life, she has been a passionate advocate for equality and fairness.
And at the ceremony he said:
Ellen DeGeneres has a way of making you laugh about something rather than at someone. Except when I danced on her show -- she laughed at me. (Laughter.) But that’s okay.

It's easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law -- just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago. Just how important it was not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister challenge our own assumptions, remind us that we have more in common than we realize, push our country in the direction of justice.

What an incredible burden that was to bear. To risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often. And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders. But it's like Ellen says: We all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole. Which really makes no sense to me, but I thought would brighten the mood, because I was getting kind of choked up. (Laughter.) And she did pay a price -- we don’t remember this. I hadn’t remembered it. She did, for a pretty long stretch of time -- even in Hollywood.

And yet, today, every day, in every way, Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together -- inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.
And yet Governor Mike Pence, the little handed pussy grabber's choice for Vice President, has had something different to say on the matter. From Time:
In 2006, as head of the Republican Study Committee, a group of the 100 most-conservative House members, Pence rose in support of a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Citing a Harvard researcher, Pence said in his speech, “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” Pence also called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God’s idea.”
Well, isn't that special -  now it's time to ponder, yet again, all we'll be losing.