Stephen Miller’s OCD/White Nationalist World View

Stephen Miller, who I’m sorry to say made my brain scream ‘brown shirt’ when I first set eyes on him, ended up proving soon enough that I was not so far off the mark. On Sunday 8.18.2019 Miller spoke on at least one talk show. It is Stephen Miller’s stated theory that people are happier with their own kind and the world runs more smoothly when cultures don’t mix.

When Stephen Miller was a child perhaps he did not mix up the colors of his Legos, but built monochromatic structures, which if you know Legos is pretty hard to do. Perhaps he never allows his plates to mix with his cups and each room in his house uses one color palette only. Maybe he is one of those very organized people who sort their buttons by color and size and who never mix their bolts with their nuts. Maybe we should have some sympathy because he could have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But this also looks a lot like white nationalism, which looks a lot like racism.

Stephen Miller’s mania for categorizing and isolating by similarity of traits runs into huge difficulties when you try to apply it to humans and human societies. Do we separate by color? What nation or continent do Americans of African Descent claim as their home given that many of their ancestors were brought here against their will 400 years ago. (Do you suppose that Miller has talked Trump into buying Greenland so America has somewhere to offload nonwhites who have no place to go? Of course it could just be about oil because drilling in pristine wilderness areas is also something Trump loves to do.)

Will we just have separate zones (states) in America organized by skin color? Will language be a point of distinction? Perhaps people will be sorted out by religion. What if your skin is dark and you are not a Christian? Will there be a separate category? Perhaps it will require lists of traits to assign people to the appropriate corner of the planet (they could start with the fictional color classifications from Underground Airlinesby Ben H Winter). Will miscegenation be punished? Will there be spots to tuck people away in who will never fit any approved category? A gay country? A trans country?

Stephen Miller is scary enough when he looks affectless – which is most of the time. But after he explained all this on Sunday he smiled – and that was far more frightening. Life is not orderly. It gets less orderly if you look at individual traits that divide us. No one stays put. They keep moving around. This would be unacceptable in Stephen Miller world.

Would Miller wipe out all migration, make it a crime. You get assigned a culture and there you must remain because all the chaos in the world will end if people only live in close proximity to others who are like them. American is probably to blame for climate change although 45 likes to blame China. But if your climate changes, too bad. You are not going anywhere. Famine, lack of water, war – supposedly will all be ended by homogeneity. Did we ever know a time when the world worked this way?

Stephen Miller claims that he is not a racist or a white supremacist. Then what is he? Why does he have such a segregated view of the world? I suppose there was a time when Europe was peopled by white folks but people still found many reasons to war with each other. They warred about property, about money, about government, about religion, just because they took a dislike to each other. Stephen Miller’s theory is ridiculous; it is unprovable; it is not backed up by history, or science, or religion or by anything. It is a figment of Stephen Miller’s imagination which is hardly to be considered very original.

Of course Hitler put 6 million people to death because they, according to him, did not belong in Europe, or in fact anywhere on Earth. Check everyone’s DNA. I doubt if anyone is pure enough to know which group s/he belongs to. Stephen Miller’s racist logic is not logical. He should not be in America’s White House advising an American president. We will never have a sensible approach to immigration as long as he is there.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches: Washington Post, The Daily Beast

Fall by Neal Stephenson – Book

When Neal Stephenson takes on a subject he does not fool around, or he does but with purpose. In Fall, Neal Stephenson takes on the small topics of our times like how to fix the internet, immortality, artificial intelligence, and the Singularity. He even gets in a prolonged jab at modern American culture when he takes us with Sophia to Ameristan for a quick and terrifying visit (hint: the border is made up of WalMarts).

Who is Sophia? She’s Dodge’s great niece. Dodge, also known as Richard Forthrast, is the key character in this sprawling novel. One of Dodge’s last acts before entering a clinic for a simple procedure (which proves fatal) is to be distracted by a red leaf that he catches on the palm of his hand before it hits the pavement (Fall). He asks “if we lived on as spirits or were reconstituted as digital simulations” would things still have “quale” (for example) the subjective experience of redness.

Dodge, although his demise is premature, has made legal arrangements to have his brain frozen (a legal dilemma since the cryonics company has folded, but also not a dilemma because Forthrast is a very wealthy man with relatives who love him). So his brain is separated from his body until those at the forefront of using computers to scan brains and preserve them in digital form can progress. Once this is accomplished Dodge awakens in an empty digital simulation, a digital afterlife. But Dodge earned his fortune as the inventor of a popular world-building game called T’Rain. He begins to build a world to give the afterlife form. Back on earth living people can watch Dodge’s simulation unfold (he remembers his name as Egdod)

Dodge’s cohorts and rivals are Corvallis Kawasaki (cohort) and Elmo Shepherd (rival) and, of course his niece Zula, mother of Sophia (loyal family). A fake nuclear incident which leaves many people believing that the town of Moab, Utah was attacked points out some of shortcomings of the internet. “The Internet – what Dodge used to call the Miasma – had just gone completely wrong. Down to the molecular level it was still a hippie grad school project. Like a geodesic dome that a bunch of flower children had assembled from scrap lumber on ground infested with termites and carpenter ants. So rotten that rot was the only thing that was holding it together.”

Our intrepid computer wizards and coders invent a new way to protect an individual’s identity by using their actual “lifeprint”, called a PURDAH (Personal Unseverable Designation for Anonymous Holography). The internet needs to keep expanding to keep Dodge and all the new souls being scanned into the afterlife alive. Then Dodge, creator of the land mass of the afterlife from his Palace to the Knot, decides to see if he can bring forth new souls in the Landform Visualization Utility (LVU). When he is ultimately successful his old rival El (Elmo) Shepherd feels the entire design has been taken in the wrong direction. He decides to end his own life (he has a fatal disease anyway) and get scanned into Dodge’s creation. He ousts Dodge and takes over.

Eventually, of course, all the friends and enemies of Dodge die (or are murdered) (bots are no better than their owners). The population of Earth is declining. Who will be left to make sure the afterlife is supplied with enough energy to continue to exist? How do we get to the Singularity?

It’s a long strange trip (from the Grateful Dead song ‘Truckin’). Neal Stephenson is always amazing and Fall might just be the quintessential gamer fantasy novel/or you might think it is just past weird. As for me, although it lagged in a few parts, it worked. That does seem like one way we could get to the Singularity and leave the Earth to its own devices to recover from humans. On the other hand, I have not signed up for any tech leading to a digital afterlife, and as far as I know, no such tech exists. I don’t think the afterlife looked all that appealing unless you were a member of the ‘Pantheon’. We may find out if books copy life, or if life copies books. Keep your ears open.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Verge

Brainwashing America: What to Do with our Beloved Pod People

For years the brainwashing that produced Trump’s followers has issued forth from radios in the dead of the night as lonely truckers and other drivers travelled the highways across America. For at least one decade, probably closer to two decades impassioned talkers have whispered in the ears of lower middle class men and women, husbands and fathers the news that white people in America were about to be replaced by minorities; that soon the minority population of America would be larger than the white population. These smooth talkers did not bother to tell listeners that this did not mean any one group would outnumber white folks, that this number was an aggregate number. Pretty soon all over America people were shaking their heads in agreement, suddenly aware that these midnight voices were speaking a truth they could feel in their own guts. Yes, yes Rush Limbaugh is a righteous dude. You should listen. Marc Levine, f-ing A, that’s my man. You gotta’ hear this.

Immigrants, some of them Muslims, some of them gang members, people who can’t even speak English, who are not Christians, are taking your tax dollars, they expound to the rhythm of big tires on American highways and in garages all over the country. These immigrants get the same benefits you get like welfare, health care, even social security or social security disability. They get free housing, some are given cars, these disembodied voices exclaim each night in the hours when drivers are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel without some kind of stimulation. These radio talkers offer major stimulation; they offer anger and ‘enlightenment’ and approval of what others call inappropriate thoughts and opinions. You may need guns they say.

These immigrants are taking American jobs because they will work for nothing. Many of them are here illegally, they should not be here and yet they are given jobs and benefits just like real Americans. You are being replaced in your own nation by foreigners. These topics are popular. They come up over and over again. People can call in and these guys will sympathize with the anger their listeners express, they can prop up that anger and expand on it. The hours melt away.

They tell their listeners that they can blame it all on the Democrats. The talkers’ views are so popular that a whole TV network is cobbled together to bring these views into American homes, in order to discuss American gripes twenty-four/seven. These issues that arouse the anger of their listeners do not have to be true; they just have to call forth that righteous anger that fuels an entirely new political view, the politics of white injustice, the piling up of the abuses being heaped on real Americans, of the losses real Americans have suffered when their good jobs, their factory jobs were given to foreigners. Brains are being ‘snatched’; a generation of ‘pod’ people is being created.

Americans who worked hard all their lives were paying for deadbeats who did not have to work. Now the drumbeat of injustice played out all day and all night in living color. Democrats defend deadbeats, therefore Democrats are bad. Republicans are informing you of how you are being ripped off so Republicans are good. Glenn Beck, your old dashboard friend Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly – these guys sound smart, they write books, they are patriots, they even rewrite history for their listeners. The internet gives us The Daily Caller, and The Thinker, pseudo-Conservative (actually extreme right wing and Tea Party) sites offering “intellectual” cachet to a movement that is basically anti-intellectual.

You are paying too many taxes. (Yes we are, these people are so right.) Your tax dollars are being used to support illegal immigrants. (That’s true, listeners say, and it makes me really angry.) Our government is too big. (Also true, you guys are speaking our language.) All this nonsense about what it is politically correct to say and what it’s not OK to say. We have free speech. We get to tell it like it is. (Husbands and wives listen and watch together and they bond in righteous anger.)

This is brainwashing and it has been very effective. These are Trump’s peeps. They heard the gospel according to Talk Radio and Fox ‘News’. They are pumped, they are not going to take it anymore. They are the new Republicans who the old school Republicans are aghast to find in their party. But these people are white and they are a whole different kind of ‘woke’ and the party of racism and guns, facing decline, needs them. We’ll talk them into believing the Democrats are going to steal their guns and allow their daughters to abort their grandchildren, that strangers will slaughter them in their beds, they say. There is so much scope in this whole strategy of stoking the feelings that folks are victims of a great big plot against real Americans that those who run the GOP can make themselves wealthier and these particular Americans will think it is all part of a plan that will benefit the middle class. The politicians and pundits will laugh all the way to the bank (but not out loud please).

Our forefathers may have said that all men are created equal and that we all deserve the same things but half of them kept slaves so they didn’t really mean all people; they meant white people, people of European descent. So even when Republicans ignore or reinterpret portions of our Constitution and our laws and rules, these Americans, primed by propaganda delivered in their most vulnerable moments, feel convinced that ending our democracy/republic will turn out in their favor; isolationism will turn out in their favor; and somehow, by deportation or death, we will become an all-white English speaking nation. It won’t be pretty and our souls may not get through the entire process unscathed and we might not even still be alive when the ‘cleansed’ version of America becomes reality, but our children’s children will be all set. (Especially since climate change is not real, they are told.)

It is becoming increasingly obvious that we cannot undo these decades of brainwashing, of filling people’s minds with lies that suggest that merit is sorted out by skin color, what language you speak, and even what God you worship or how you worship God. Terrorism is scary and has given fear-mongering tactics added power to persuade Americans that they will only be safe in a homogeneous nation, while those who say they will guarantee that safety rob the middle-class of assets and place those assets in their own bloated bank accounts.

Democrats have been so successfully demonized that they realize that they will be unable to get through to at least 30% of Americans, possibly even 40% of Americans and that, given four more years in power, the damage to American values and the foundations of our nation could be devastating. What can a party do when it believes that mass propaganda is wrong? They can’t use the tactics they abhor. All they can do is speak the truth and hope it eventually gets through the fog of brainwashing many percolate in. But global chaos waits in the wings if minds remain programmed as the ‘pod’ peoples’ are.

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

 

Trump’s Authoritarian Bent – Unexpected Consequences

Trump’s attacks on our democracy might just save it. Please, do not be mistaken about any of the arguments I am about to make. I’m sure any positive consequences of this administration are unintentional consequences. Donald Trump is a terrible President, and apparently a fairly twisted person with a bank account for a soul. He is probably the worst businessman on the planet, reportedly wealthy only because he extorted money from a father who must have loved him.

However, it seems that Trump’s meanness, his policies that will hurt the people who worship him most, his racism, his authoritarian disregard for our Constitution and our laws, his love affairs with dictators, his nods at brutality as a strategy to solve problems that should be solved intelligently may be pleasing his peeps who have been turned into “pod people” by tuning in to Fox News to be hammered with propaganda. But his cruelty and dictatorial bent are also having the opposite effect on many Americans and on people in other nations around the world.

American Health Care

People who once squealed about the way the Affordable Care Act became law, and who wanted nothing to do with that health plan will fight to keep it when they are able to understand that Trump and the Republicans want to take it away and replace it with nothing.

American Safety Net Programs

In fact the Republican Party has worked very hard to convince the American people that there are deadbeats all over this nation living well off their tax dollars because of benefits designed to help less fortunate Americans or Americans temporarily experiencing setbacks. But the real endgame here is to end Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, housing subsidies, and welfare (which is almost gone already). Voters who understand this will not reelect Trump.

Smaller Federal Government – State’s Rights

What will the GOP use the freed-up budget dollars from benefit cuts for? That is left somewhat unclear but what this administration says is that they will make the federal government smaller and state governments will be more powerful. If you think that Trump will save benefits for seniors, the disabled, and the poor you are wrong. Trump’s original budget included fairly large cuts to safety net programs and even though all of these cuts did not ‘make the cut’, we recently have learned about the 3 million dollars to be subtracted from the food stamp program. Our benefits are being chipped away. And, having powerful states may sound appealing, but services and even laws will vary from state to state and what seems unfair now will seem punitive for some states if Republicans and Trump have their way. The Democrats do not have enough power right now to defeat an all-out attack on our safety net and many states cannot afford to offer such benefits.

Immigration and Asylum

We see how the Trump administration treats our neighbors who are leaving their home nations because of threatening gangs and intermittent famine. We understand  that they are seeking asylum and a better future in an America that once welcomed immigrants who came here legally. Watching what happens at our Southern border is already creating a backlash against policies that make us cringe. We have never been a nation that ignored need or inhumane conditions. We have never been a nation that put too many people in one cage with no soap and no toothbrushes, no showers and bad food and then baited people who could not keep themselves clean under such conditions.

This behavior is disgusting and America can never claim this moment as a proud moment in our history. We are an enormous country with only 350 million people. We do not lack the space to show kindness for neighbors under cultural stress. Immigration and asylum could be handled in ways that did not incite shame in one half of America, and hate in the other half (less than half).

Hong Kong

Recently we have watched the people of Hong Kong pour from their homes and businesses in protest against a leader who wanted to send people who reside in Hong Kong who are accused of crimes to mainland China for judgment and punishment under the harsher rules of President Xi, ruler for life, a dictator by another name. They won. The people, for now, successfully pushed back in a show of democratic spirit we do not seem to have found yet in our democracy. Perhaps seeing what Trump was doing in America helped to radicalize them. They have now taken over the airport. Perhaps what they are doing will inspire us.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans poured into the streets to protest the behavior of their governor after pages and pages of racist emails were made public and to demand that he leave office. It took days and days but eventually the governor caved and resigned. Perhaps Puerto Ricans realized that America was in no condition to step in and help them at this time and our dilemmas emboldened them to activism. The anger Trump has engendered in the hearts of our Puerto Rican neighbors, who are Americans without a real vote in Congress, by his unfair attacks on their nature, helped them perceive of one more string of insults as just too close to home and too over-the-top. Trump’s racism and authoritarianism radicalized them. Right now there are  Americans who are being radicalized in support of Trump, but many, quieter, Americans have been radicalized against Trump.

Moscow

https://youtu.be/5HGA76MEZcw

Hundreds demonstrated in Moscow for free elections. This has happened before but it could be more important now that American freedoms are being challenged by the Trump administration who is backed by the Republicans in Congress. Freedom seems to gain ground when there is a push to take it away.

America and the Liberal World Order

Ever since the end of World War II our planet has been involved in a tug of war between democracy/capitalism on the one hand as exemplified by America, communism on the other hand as exemplified by first the USSR and now Russia. America fought with funds for modern development, American products, American weapons and tanks and planes, American music and fashion, American technology to persuade the world’s nations to choose democracy over communism. Communists, who could not persuade with glitzy things or money offered things like gas and oil, of which they had plenty, and Russian weapons of war. America began to push a bit too hard and did a few too many regime changes and nations became leery of American “help” and suspicious of American capitalism. The world was beginning to turn a cold shoulder to America and that might help explain the rise of dictatorships around the planet.

Trump, friend of dictators everywhere, seems to be inspiring others around the world to fight harder for freedom and to fight at the grassroots level, a bottom-up movement as opposed to the old top-down approaches. Perhaps people around the world now see America as having more in common with their own situations and the hubris with which we once set out into our international endeavors is now tempered by the humility of being under the tiny thumb of a very unbalanced president with authoritarian and blatantly racist tendencies. Suggesting that anything good will come of having someone like 45 in the Oval Office goes against the grain of my soul and I am not alone in this, but we also know that even the worst ordeals can have some positive outcomes. Keep up the good work people of earth. We will not give into anything or anyone that stands in the way of global prosperity, peace, and tolerance. Trying to end democracy just might save it.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

 

America Adrift – Slippage or Growing Pains

It is such an odd feeling to be adrift in the world. It used to seem to me that every globe was mechanically calibrated. As a scale always returns to zero, a globe seemed to return the Americas to the front and center position regardless of which way you turned it. Well that old centering mechanism is broken. The globe now stops wherever the momentum of the spin ends.

Of course it’s a metaphor, a metaphor and a child’s perception about America’s belief that it was the best country on the planet, an absolute fiery furnace of industry and a fountain of prosperity, the source of invaluable capitalist know-how and the Protestant work ethic – and the last, best mediator of humanitarian behavior and global justice. And although it all sounds a bit self-righteous and boastful from our current perspective, it produced results, both positive and negative, and kept Europe busy enough that it experienced 70 years of peace among nations that had previously involved the world in two world wars.

We have come down from those lofty heights to confront our flaws, our ‘sins’ of pride. Perhaps in our zeal to convert nations to democracy we lost sight of ideology and/or confused it with economics. Because it seems today that it was all about money. Communism as described by those who thought it into being (Marx, Engels) was both a governmental ideology and an economic system and as it turned out, an authoritarian state that used a virtual Iron Curtain to keep its own sad secrets. And yet there was and is a global tug-of-war over whether democracy and capitalism or communism will win in the ideological war by collecting the most nations. A democracy/republic did not necessarily specify any economic model, but other democracies and republics did practice various brands of capitalism, far simpler than what capitalism became in the Industrial Age, but enough to join the governmental system and the economic system in holy (or unholy) matrimony.

Because America was so active in Europe after World War II and since Europe and America had the same goal, to prevent another great war, and, given the fact that Russia who had been an ally in the World Wars had slunk off behind the Iron Curtain to see what it could do with its new Communist state, we came to find global strength in our alliances with European nations in NATO and later in the UN and in the G8 which eventually became the G20.

In fact the distance between America and Europe seemed to shrink and England even referred to the Atlantic Ocean as ‘the pond’. Americans at first may have been seen as brashly confident, youthful, strong, and attractive. However, as the men who stayed in Europe and led the armed forces America left in Europe aged Europe began to question whether this was a matter of protection or occupation. Americans became ‘uglier’ and Europe as a result of its too-long familiarity with Americans began to feel a cross between amused at our temerity and pissed off by our arrogance, elitism, and hubris. Still it seemed our alliances with Europe were even stronger now that they could see our flaws and that America’s strength was recognized around the globe.

Our fall from grace, or from our former confidence in our own ascendancy, did not begin in 2016. Losing a war we never should have been in, the war in Vietnam, may have been the first blow. The cultural tears in the fabric of our nation grew to be enormous between those who backed the war and those who didn’t; those who went to college and lived near universities and those who started families immediately after high school; between those who embraced the idea of giving women power over their bodies and their persons because of the sudden availability of birth control pills and then Roe v Wade and those whose religions were opposed. The divide may be thought of as the equivalent of placing the two camps of Americans on colliding tectonic plates.

At the same time we had to deal with our racism. We had the national shame of the Civil Rights Movement playing out on televisions all over the world and the world could see that the ‘land of the free’ was not really so free. We had the assassinations – John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy – all body blows to American ebullience and pride. That set us to grieving and continued the painful process of becoming a real nation with a history both glorious and inglorious. America got a few grey hairs. But there was further to fall. Our factories began to leave. Good jobs became scarce in the North and then in the Rust Belt and later in the South.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, symbols of America’s financial dominance fell. The Pentagon, symbol of the nation’s military power was attacked. Washington, DC the seat of our republic/democracy was saved only by brave Americans on a plane who died to stop an attack. These were sure signs that there were people out there in the world we once felt that we owned who hate us and who now felt we had become vulnerable. American staggered after those blows, it almost seemed that we could not recover, and perhaps if all three attacks had succeeded we would be in a very different place right now. America was shaken to its foundations and the fears that our democracy could end became very real and are with us even more powerfully today than they were in those dark days. The strength and unity we had in those quiet days when no planes flew in America’s air space should have given way to a more mature analysis of what is good and what is bad about our nation,  but with sides being taken and divisions growing ever wider there is no mature analysis in sight.

Should we still open our doors to immigrants? Should we still offer refuge? Do we remain with fossil fuels until the last dregs are hauled out of the earth and the oceans take over our beaches and the storms rage; until we are the huddled masses we once welcomed to our shores? Are we so offended by the insistence of diverse cultural groups that we need to change our forms of address to honor their sensitivities that we cannot learn to accept political correctness as just a new level of civility and not an attack on our freedom? Are we so prideful that we turn this into the most serious problem our nation faces, which it definitely is not. America without Trump might just be having an identity crisis. With Trump we may have turned this into an existential crisis.

Just as people rarely get to go through their whole lives without experiencing setbacks and grief, our nation, no longer a nation represented by cornfed boys with brush-cuts, became middle-aged and a bit dumpy and disillusioned. We lost two more wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (well we can’t say we won, can we) and we opened some beehives and as the bees poured out we thought we would avoid being stung. So we go out and find ourselves a dumpy, disillusioned President just to double down on our identity crisis. We pick a guy who cuts us off from all our old friends who might have enjoyed our comeuppance, but who would also have commiserated with us. Perhaps off our high horse we could have worked even better with our allies. But oh, oh, we might have been asked to take in some of the dispossessed Syrians.

We pick out a guy who cozies up to all our old enemies and to the dictators who drive us to the edge of sanity with their come-here-go away-I’ll-kill-you mood changes using missile launches as punctuation. We no longer accept immigrants and we treat our neighbors like dangerous enemies. We send invoices to all our friends dunning them for money that is supposed to put us in the black according to our President’s wacky bookkeeping (as our deficits rise ever higher). It’s embarrassing to most of us, it looks strong to the rest of us. Still divided, the rancor grows between us. He (the royal he) exploits the new gaps of coastal versus rural interests and this man from the biggest coastal city of all pretends to identify with rural Americans and they buy it.

The old man in the White House, imposing solutions devised in discos decades ago, is stoking divisions into hatreds. What will hating each other ever get us? When we were in decline for some reason we chose the one person who could be the death of us. Is this a suicide pact? Is this the bottom that will finally inspire the citizens who love America to help our nation rise from this mid-life crisis to become a nation that hews to the creed that birthed it, but that never-so-far informed it? Do we have farther to fall? Is our nation not middle-aged but really at the end of its life as this man is, or do we have many more useful years left? Is he a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Do we leave our old friends and allies to deal with all the transitional problems of these times. Do we continue to antagonize even our neighbors in our own hemisphere? Do we refuse to help the world solve the issues of polar melting and ocean pollution. Why, rather than choose a wise man whose age and experience could help America find the wisdom it needs to face the future, did we choose a hipster doofus, a player, a crook who pretends to be wise but who only knows how to feed the pigeons (another metaphor). Can we get our mojo back? How long can we stay adrift in the universe without becoming utterly beside the point. I don’t feel a need to be the richest nation in the world. But I did think we would help lead as the world solved logistical problems to ensure a future we might all look forward to. I thought we would share our educated brains with the rest of the educated brains around the world. Instead we elected an anti-intellectual.

Where does the globe stop when our children spin it now – not here.

This is a view from the cheap seats. I always sit in the cheap seats although I am afraid of heights.

Photo Credit: From Pixabay at Pexels, Thank you.

Mass Shooters and Obstructed Problem Solvers

Besides causing us to constantly grieve the killing of innocent Americans when our nation is not even involved in an internal war, these horrific shootings by our own home-grown terrorists are frustrating us (almost) beyond the point of sanity. I will not go through the list of incidents but it is out there on the web and it is terrifying and a development we never foresaw. Americans are problem solvers. We see a problem and we work on it in our educated brains. We subscribe to the belief that once we identify a problem there are solutions to that problem and we can apply them like a band-aid. But in the case of mass shootings we are being blocked from solving  problems that must be resolved in order to allow for America’s continued survival as a nation that bears any resemblance to the America we so love to revere.

We know that strict adherence to the Second Amendment of our Constitution has been ’weaponized’ by some Americans such as militia members, white supremacists, and racists to the point where we are prevented from keeping almost anyone from owning a weapon, even a weapon of war, and openly carrying it everywhere they go. We have seen after each shooter episode that swearing allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment does not allow problem solvers to look at the gun ownership laws and set some reasonable limits on gun ownership. What might a reasonable limit be – violent mental disorder has been suggested and the NRA doubled down and declared that the mentally ill should not be denied gun ownership. Even blind Americans cannot be denied the right to own a gun, a stance that might isolate blind people even more than their disability often does. Should people who broadcast hate speech be denied guns? We suspect that much death and mayhem might be prevented if that could happen.

Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1DBF890610

Our mental health system is broken and has been since we began to issue scripts for psychotropic drugs and remove psychological support systems for people with some fairly serious mental disorders. Stubborn symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, paranoia can make it very difficult for some people to enjoy a consistently productive lifestyle. But the meds they are prescribed have unpleasant side effects that change peoples’ personalities so drastically that they no longer feel a connection to their own identity and they stop taking these meds to get ‘themselves’ back. Once they go off their meds and have no access to a support system they may be susceptible to the hate speech they hear around them, it may make them fearful and paranoid or angry; they may not have the impulse control that will stop them from buying a gun and taking action. Since we understand the limitations of the meds to control hereditary brain conditions we need to replace some of the human support systems for children, parents, and adults who have to live their lives as their brains try to mislead them.

We also have an understanding of what Langston Hughes identified as “The Dream Deferred”. Robbing a group of people (in this case black and brown people) of opportunities which they can see others all around them benefitting from sets up an inequality that makes people outside the neglected group disrespect them and see them as being of less value. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy and is in no way an actual sign that any ability deficit exists. Giving both segregated Americans of African Descent and poor white Americans all kinds of opportunities to succeed would lift the spirits of the entire nation and rob hate of its favorite food – stigmatizing a group as inferior.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) gives a thumbs up sign as he walks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

It is the NRA, Conservatives, and the right wing takeover of our government that prevents us from implementing the solutions that our problem solving skills have generated and, although some things can be done at the local and state levels, some avenues have been totally blocked. We need to keep in mind what Mr. Hughes, American poet said would happen if a dream (or a solution to a problem) keeps being deferred. IT EXPLODES!, he says. His prediction has been realized and is being realized in America every day. As long as we hold the future back through hate and division it will continue. Perhaps the election will give us the way to stop the obstruction but this in no way looks like a lock. It may eventually require mass demonstrations if we are even capable of persisting in such a strategy. Frustration, helplessness, anger, and grief is a toxic recipe, not any kind of solution, and it will only poison American culture. This evil concoction could never take the place of a recipe whose ingredients are action and hope.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Forbes, PBS, CBS News, Yahoo News, Business Insider, CityLab, Talkspace, Verge Network, The Gazette, Twitter, The National Memo, Mijente, NYT, RMN

August 2019 Book List

 

Here is my list of books published in July, available in August. Lots of fiction, not as much nonfiction. If you are someone who loves crime books or thrillers and these kinds of books top your summer reading list then you are all set. There is also quite a bit of interesting science fiction and fantasy for you if that is your taste. And there are several good biographies and memoirs that were published recently. The ones that struck me when I read the summaries are starred. If you Google a book you will get a very short summary of what it’s about. Go to Amazon or your library for a longer description if you’re not sure what to pick. Don’t worry, you can’t keep up. Just dive in and carve out a little niche for yourself. Happy reading.

Amazon

Best Books of August

Literature and Fiction

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

American Saint by Sean Gandert *

Chances Are…by Richard Russo *

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory *

Inland by Téa Obreht *

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christi Lefteri *

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokaczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones *

Summerlings by Lisa Howorth *

Gods with a little g by Tupelo Hassman

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin *

The Bitterroots by CJ Box

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Last Widow (Will Trent) by Karin Slaughter

The Whisperer (13) (Inspector Sejer Mysteries) by Karin Fossum, Kari Dickson

True Believer (2) (Terminal List) by Jack Carr

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

A Keeper by Graham Norton

Don’t Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokaczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Biographies and Memoirs

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

Idiot Wind: A Memoir by Peter Kaldheim

Alexander the Great: His Life and His Mysterious Death by Anthony Everitt

Barnum: An American Life by Robert Wilson

Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America’s Public Lands by JohnClayton

Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan by Alan Paul, Andy Aledort

Nights in White Castle: A Memoir by Steve Rushin

The Sober Diaries: How One Woman Stopped Drinking and Started Living by Clare Pooley

Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers Pervs and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth

Nonfiction

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill, Dan Piepenbring

Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors by Edward Niedermeyer

Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects by Edward Posnett

The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains by Joseph Le Doux *

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi

The Mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator by Timothy Wineqard

The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes by David Robson *

The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Woman Who Pursued Him, and the Murder that Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? By Temi Oh

Blood of an Exile (Dragon of Terra by Brian Haslund)

Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War) by R F Kuang

Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buston

Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan

The Gossamer Mage by Julie E Gernada

The New York Times Book Review

July 5

Crime

Conviction by Denise Mina *

More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve *

The Island by Ragnar Jonasson

Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce

Fiction

Last Day by Domenica Ruta *

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson *

The Body in Question by Jill Ciment *

Nonfiction

The Guarded Gate by Daniel Okrent *

The Way We Eat by Bee Wilson *

Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero by Tyler Cowen

A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik (defense of liberalism) *

The Buried by Peter Hessler

The Shortlist (books on mental illness)

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia by Marin Sardy

Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness by Anne Harrington

Tyrannical Minds: Psychological Profiling, Narcissism, and Dictatorship by Dean Haycock *

Podcast 50 Best Memoirs – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/05/books/review/50-best-memoirs-past-50-years

July 12

Great Summer Reads

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by Pamela Dorman

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess

The Travelers by Regina Porter

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kivok

Fiction

Clyde Fans: A Picture Book by Seth *

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Nonfiction

A Good American Family by David Maraniss

Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century by Alexandra Popoff

Running to the Edge by Matthew Futterman

The Making of a Justice by Justice John Paul Stevens

The Land of Flickering Lights by Michael Bennet

The Thirty-Year Genocide by Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi

July 19

Fiction

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead *

Crime

Knife by Jo Nesbo

The Shameless by Ace Atkins

The Body in the Wake (Faith Fairchild) by Katherine Hall Page

The Hard Stuff by David Gordon

Fiction

Mostly Dead Things by Kristin Arnett

A Philosophy of Ruin by Nicholas Mancussi

Lanny by Max Porter

The Shortlist (Story Collections)

Rain by Mia Couto

The Sun on My Head by Giovani Martins

Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana

Nonfiction

My Parents/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hemon (Memoir)

Appeasement by Tim Bouverie (Neville Chamberlain)

The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

July 26th

Recursion by Blake Crouch (alternate reality thriller)

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

The Need by Helen Phillips

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Empty Hearts by Juli Zeh

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin *

Publishers Weekly

July 5

The Substitution Order by Martin Clark (F) (legal thriller)

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R Day (memoir)

Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch – (F)

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking it all with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier – (NF)

Ash Kickers (Smoke Eaters #2) by Sean Grigsby (F) (Science Fiction/Fantasy)

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (F) (Rom-Com+)

The Chain by Adrian McKinty (F) (thriller) *

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America by Margaret O’Mara (NF)

The Need by Helen Phillips (F) (crossover, thriller, sci-fi, literary)

The Toll by Cherie Priest (F) (‘Gothic tale’)

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renki (NF)

George Marshall: Defender of the Republic by David L Roll (NF)

Say Say Say by Lila Savage (F) *

Supper Club by Lara Williams (F) *

July 12

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (F)*

Native Tongue by Suzetter Haden Elgin  (F) *

Red Metal by Mark Greany and H Ripley Rawlings IV (F)

Greasy Bend by Kris Lackey (F) (2 investigations that connect)

Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler (F)

Four Men Shaking: Searching for Sanity with Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and My Perfect Zen Teacher by Lawrence Shainberg (Memoir)

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei, et al (NF) (World War II Internment)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (F) *

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (F)  (The Burning #1) (Fantasy)

July 19

Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher (F)

Desdemona and the Deep by CSE Cooney (F) (Fantasy/Sci Fi)

The Gomorrah Gambit by Tom Chatfield (F) (high tech thriller)

Jade War by Fonda Lee (F) (Fantasy)

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman (F) (Crime novel)

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCullock (NF)

Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty (F)

Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston (NF)

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (F) (Crime) (forensic psychologist)

Glory and It Litany of Horrors by Fernanda Torres (F)

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington (F) (Space thriller)

July 26

Can Two Women Ever Be – Too Close by Natalie Daniels (F)

A Capitol Death by Lindsey Davis (F) (a Flavia Alba novel)

Smokescreen by Iris Johansen (F) (thriller)

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss and Renewal in Middle America by Lyz Lenz (NF)

The Hound of Justice (The Janet Watson Chronicles) (F)

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (F) (Fantasy)

 

 

 

The New Girl by Daniel Silva – Book

Having read all of Daniel Silva’s spy novels that feature Gabriel Allon and his team of talented Israeli intelligence specialized spies, I could not resist getting to The New Girl as soon as possible. None of the other books (there are 18 of them) deals with a global situation that is quite as recent as the one we find here. Silva always uses his spy Allon, now the head of the Israeli Intelligence Service to make sure that bad actors pay for the mayhem they cause and that the activities of the bad actors cease and desist. Often evil doers must die to insure that they will not eventually practice their crimes and terrors at some other point in the future.

This time Daniel Silva wants to remind us of how important journalists and journalism are to maintaining the freedoms that people treasure. We are reminded that one of the first things dictators often do is shut down the free press and support a press that is merely a mouthpiece for the leader. The most shocking recent example involved the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi assassination team sent into a Turkish embassy, perhaps by Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) the heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia, although he denies it. In a way this novel attempts to do the same thing that Quentin Tarantino did in his most recent movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodby righting a wrong, although in both cases we know that a fictional revision of history cannot really right a past wrong. However revenge fiction can offer some personal satisfaction.

The names have been changed of course, MBS becomes Khalid bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. who is buying a painting in NYC from our old friend Sarah Bancroft, occasionally part of Gabriel’s team, when his daughter  at a exclusive private school in kidnapped. She is only twelve. Who would know where she was? Who would abduct her? The reasons are not as mysterious. There could be many reasons why Khalid might attract violence. Stealing a child is a low-life way to get the attention of someone this powerful and it is probable that it involves a hope to get Khalid out in the open in order to kill him.

Omar Nawwaf is the name of the fictional character who faces the same fate as Khashoggi and whose murder disgusts people around the world and causes us to stop noticing that MBS is handsome and to just remember that he is ruthless. The world reacts similarly to the killing of Omar Nawwaf in Silva’s book but people who know about the kidnapping of his daughter (very few people) do not believe in punishing the child for the sins of the father. Omar was trying to give Kahlid information about a plot against him by his uncle when he was assassinated. Omar’s wife, Hanifa Khoury, eventually shares what Omar learned with Gabriel, but only to help save the child.

How does it all end? Well, as usual, bummer, I can’t tell you. All the other Gabriel Allon books deal with history that is further in the past. You may feel that this particular piece of global terror is too fresh to qualify for Silva’s fictional treatment of it. People’s reactions will probably be personal and varied. Although many of my favorite characters appear and there is the beginning of a romance that readers should like (but Gabriel does not think will work), I can’t help but feel that it may have been too soon to approach this subject.

Photo Credit: from a Google Image Search – Houstonia

Find me also at Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

https://nbrissionbookblog.com/

Facebook Trolls and Such: There’s a Meme for That

I have a blog site https://thearmchairobserver/ and I have a Facebook page for my blog https://www.facebook.com/thearmchairobserver/(come visit me). Facebook lets me buy ads so I can have the posts I write on my blog site “pushed out” onto the pages of unsuspecting Facebook users. I think the invasion of someone’s personal space is justified because my motives are existential. I am trying to save our democracy/republic from Donald the Destroyer, crusher of all things Constitutional – he who tramples our humanity by allowing people who just want to steal freedom to die crossing a border that no eagle can see – the friend of Putin and Kim Jung Un – liar – escape artist – fearmonger – user – abuser – possible traitor and much, much more.

Once in a while one of my articles attracts some attention, usually from someone who believes Trump will soon be reelected and who likes to call Democrats names and taunt and troll them. Recently an article I wrote about “Trump and the Dangers of Toadyism” https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/trump-and-the-dangers-of-toadyism/ 

was shared by Facebook and got a surprising number of not very educated responses and a few zingers. Why create an original comment when there’s a meme for that. Although almost no one talked about the article’s content, a lot of people had a lot to say. This time people responded who wish to see Trump leave office, and those who wish to keep him in office. They were aiming memes at each other and calling each other names, and just venting. It was an internet duel, “take that”, no you “take this”. Comic book stuff – Pow – Bam – Zowie – Gotcha. It is easy to feel that we would all come to blows if we spoke to each other like this in person. Is it a good thing for people to express their bile or their sentiments? Maybe. But I don’t think anyone of the commenters changes the mind of any other commenter. Every one leaves feeling the same as when they arrived. Here is some of what people had to say:

Patrick O(no last names): Well fffffuck you too!

Nancy B(me): Patrick – Use your words

Robert M: Nancy B – lol

Marc Depa: Meme – Picture of Trump smiling Caption “Can’t wait to serve 4 more years for my crimes in Federal Prison.”

Myles L: Dangers of t.d.s. (Trump derangement syndrome?) emojis – 3 laugh til I cried.

Patti Anzar Myles L. you will see – big laugh emoji

Marc D: http://mag.time.comICU6h8

Holly La D: Meme – Picture of an all red American map – Caption – “States where Donald Trump is President – Every time someone shares this post, a liberal sheds a tear.”

Meme – Photo of prominent Democrats Caption – America’s Got Treason

Marc D: Meme – Picture Jesus on Cross Caption – Hey Republicans…You know who else was a compassionate Libtard Snowflake who said we should care for the sick, feed the poor, and welcome immigrants. HIM!

Marc D: Meme – Picture split in half, Melania on one side, Trump on the other. On Melania’s side it says “send her back”; on Donald’s side it says “Lock him up”

Marc D: Sandy N to Russia

(we don’t see what Sandy N says for some reason)

Marc D: Sandy N – But that is what people are saying

Marc D: Sandy N – So she should go back to her own country then like Trump told the other [for] women

Marc D: Sandy N – the whole country is saying he said that that’s the way they took it he shouldn’t let it at all that’s why all the black people go Puerto Ricans, Mexicans Jews or even against them up they’re all against them an most white people because of it [hard to follow this one]

Marc D: Most people took it as a racist remark he should have never said it that’s why his holes (?) are going now that’s why a lot of Republicans are turning Democrat look it up it’s all over [her] even he’s losing Texas for the first time in history a Republican’s losing Texas

Marc D: I have and I took it that way 90% of the country that that’s why he’s losing everybody

Marc D: https://thehill.com/454574-trump-approval-rating

Marc D: he’s losing all kind of these states is voters it’s all over the news because of the way he doing things he’s hurting people not helping Graphic “The Trump administration wants to kick 3 million people off of food stamps – 8 of 10 states with the highest percentage of people on food stamps voted for Trump/ shows 7 states from West Virginia down to the Gulf states in bright green.

Marc D: Sandy N – They’re really low during the 20’s right now his approval rating and everything’s really low he’s losing

Stacy O: Emojis 9 snowflakes, 9 frownies

The Armchair Observer: If you keep supporting this man he will destroy American Democracy

Jamie Lee G: The Armchair Observer – let it be done. As one of our founders, Benjamin Franklin said, democracy is mob rule, We are an American REPUBLIC.

The Armchair Observer Jamie Lee G – A REPUBLIC is just a democracy that has a Constitution, so still a democracy. Republicans won’t call it a democracy because they like the fact that calling it a republic says part of the name of the party.

Holly La D: Hey Snowflakes… Meme – Picture of Trump in front of American flag with a guitar – Caption – This is a little love song I wrote. It’s called “Still Your President”

Keith B: Get this crap off my FB page, I’m not a fucking liberal socialist.

The Armchair Observer: Liberals are not socialists unless you watch Fox News

Douglas M H: -The Armchair Observer – They are now, sorry, you can thank Obama and the four morons for that.

Holly La D: The Armchair Observer – Picture – A Cuban blackboard which says Our Revolution is NOT Communism (and several other things that proved to be untrue) – Caption – Cuban Propaganda during the Communist Revolution – Sound familiar??

Armchair Observer: I would rather sound like Castro than Hitler, both hyperboles.

Greg W: We dodged danger you can’t even imagine (1 like)

Gerry V: – Jamie Lee G – Meme Caption “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. George Orwell 1984” “Just remember what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening. Donald Trump, 2018” “Trump asks his supporters to ignore their senses, and instead place blind faith in him”

Holly La D: Gerry Villani – picture of Barbie looking at a Ken’s man parts which are missing – Barbie says wtf? Caption It was then that Barbie realized Ken was a liberal.

Gerry V: Meme – Trump fist in air – “Don’t trust the press. They are the enemy of the people. Instead get your info from the government (me).”

Scott B: Another propaganda site just like the Russians. You go liberal hypocrites

Steven I: TRUMP 2020 (1 like, 1 love, 6 angry)

Betty M: Steven I “Bye”

Douglas M H: “What a wasted click. This article is a complete pile of odorous Democrat feces. Yawn. Trump 2020? In fact, Trump 2024 if no one is looking.

The Armchair Observer: He won’t mind if everyone watches him break the law. He does it all the time.

Photo from Pexels – Thank you.

Conclusions:

  1. It may be impossible to have an intelligent conversation online.
  2. Overcoming systematic long term propaganda is really difficult.
  3. We can’t send everyone to an intervention.
  4. It may not be worth it to pay Facebook money to push out these blog posts.
  5. This is really depressing, except this time I had some liberal help. That was nice.

Michael Tomasky expresses this very well in The Daily Beast:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/deplorable-trump-watches-fox-writes-racist-tweets-to-rile-up-rural-voters

This is why Trump is going to be hard to beat. An entirely separate non-reality has been constructed in places like Kentucky-05, where most TVs are tuned to Fox and people vote every time for the politicians who want to yank away their health care coverage and take their tax money and give it to rich people. And where people literally think a person would have to be absolutely insane to want to live in or even visit a place like Baltimore and are happy to believe every asinine racist thing Trump tweets.

 

Drama or Civility? – The Mueller Hearings

Mueller in the House

While the drama we experienced in the Mueller Hearing on this Wednesday, July 24, 2019 appeals to our nature the civil approach of the Democrats was far more professional, Congressional, cognizant of the nature and the legal stance of Robert Mueller as a prosecutor and far more pertinent to the actual content of the Mueller report.

Republican questioners, sticking to their elaborate conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton and clear Trump in the Russia matters, knew that their points had nothing to do with the Mueller report and were in fact intended to destroy the credibility of the entire Mueller investigation.

But if we ignore the things we learned from the Mueller investigations then we will pay a price in terms of allowing the infiltration into our business by Russia and any other foreign nation that decides it can benefit from being able to interfere in our politics and stay under our radar. And we will turn our government into a seat for liars and manipulators and those who grasp power for whatever reasons they enjoy being in control, and that will end our republic.

Drama

Watching the Mueller Hearings today was an exercise in blood pressure control. Republicans are able to capture the attention of the Americans who are listening to these hearings in real time because they have some theories about how the President was supposedly railroaded and how the Republicans were shafted by a team assembled to conduct the investigation which was highly partisan. Mueller is a well-respected prosecutor who worked for Ronald Reagan and two Bushes. He reminded us all that good prosecutors never ask potential hires about their political affiliation and said that he has never asked for that information. He chooses mostly from people available in the Department of Justice who may have arrived during a number of administrations. Republicans continue to insist that they were victimized.

In addition Republicans have a theory that Hillary Clinton got the Russians involved in the 2016 election and that she paid Fusion GPS to have Christopher Steele produce the Steele Dossier which contained “dirt” on Donald Trump. They kept pushing this unverified and thinly veiled piece of theory although they knew it was currently under investigation by the Department of Justice and that Mueller could not give testimony about it. They were talking through this hearing to their Fox “News” audience. Mueller’s answers suggest that he never even considered the Steele Dossier part of his investigation.

The Republicans said also that, since Trump denies any interactions on his part with the Russians, this investigation should never have been conducted. They ignored evidence that this President has so far lied over 3,000 times, both great big fat lies and tiny lies intended to confuse the records in the media over what is fact and what is fiction. Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer, although admittedly tarnished by his own lies, tells us that Trump never does his own dirty work. He likes to have deniability. He tries not to ever be implicated in the things he orders his employees to do. That is why at least five of Trump’s campaign staff members are either in prison or under indictment.

Then there is the whole issue of why Mr. Joseph Mifsud was never indicted and the incredulity Republicans express, however disingenuously, that Mueller was never able to get him to testify although he was in and out of America a number of times during the pertinent time period. This whole issue of Mifsud and Papadopoulos and who Mifsud actually represented is another Republican conspiracy theory.

In fact, especially in the afternoon session, Republicans claim there are many things Mueller should have investigated that he didn’t that would have been exculpatory to Trump. Well since these things were not investigated it is strictly a Republican theory that these things will fall out in Trump’s favor, but they are currently under investigation in the DOJ at Republican insistence. Given that Democrats consider William Barr, the Attorney General, a Trump toady it seems unlikely Dems will feel they can trust the outcome of the most recent investigations into Republican talking points.

Although Mueller was never able to tie Trump to the Russian intervention in the election, it is certainly interesting to note that his campaign had about 140 interactions with Russians which certainly seems excessive.

Another Republican belittles Mueller’s accomplishments by saying that he cites the media over 200 times in his evidence so it appears that this report could have simply been compiled from what was in the media. However, we have a President who conducts his Presidency in the media, and who refused to testify before the Mueller investigation. Even when the President tries to keep secrets he is usually unsuccessful; someone leaks private discussions to the media either from the prodding of their conscience or perhaps even as directed by the President. The media used in the Mueller report consists of actual quotes of things Trump said either to the media or on Twitter (social media). Since these are direct quotes, things we all heard and know about, things the President owns as things he has said, they offered the only testimony from Trump that was available at the time. Although there is an Appendix that tells what the President said in his written statement with his lawyer, those answers were made after-the-fact and the President either could not remember or refused to answer many of the key questions put to him.

Civility

The Democrats, on the other hand, appeared dry as paper, but that was because they stuck to what was in the report instead of constantly trying to criticize what was not in the report that they thought should be in the report as the Republicans did all day. The Democrats understood what Mueller would be willing to say and what he wouldn’t be able to say. The Democrats treated Robert Mueller with the respect he deserved. Clearly, the Dems would have liked Mueller to be even more definitive than he was about whether Trump stepped over the line with Russia and moved into the area of treason, which many of us believe he did. However Mueller insists that he could not make such a judgment based on the evidence, but he also said that the fact that so many of the witnesses lied to the investigators and even the Grand Jury did hurt the investigation. Mueller does say that there is clear evidence of Russian interference in our election and he does not soft pedal the seriousness of this nor the fear that this interference has not ended and probably will be a factor in the 2020 election.

What the Democrats tried to do is go over the most egregious examples of obstruction in Part II of the report and show how each met the three requirements of the Obstruction charge. They looked at the firing of James Comey, which the President admitted to Lester Holt was because of the investigation into Trump and Russia before the American people in a television interview, very publicly. We heard the things that Trump said to Cohen and Manafort and Flynn and Roger Stone which alternatively hinted at future pardons or issued veiled threats that harm might come to their families. These things are in the public record, the videos are out there and can be searched. Trump may think he speaks in code, but his coded statements are crude and easy to decode by even the least educated among us. We cannot help but wonder how it is that the only people unable to get Trump’s thinly veiled points are the Republicans and Americans who get their news from the Fox channel. We have physical evidence of the checks Trump wrote to pay off women he had affairs with who he feared would add to the flames of the “pussy” incident aired during his campaign. This President, for some reason, can convince people to deny the evidence that they can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears.

Whether or not one person’s mind was changed relative to the findings of the Mueller report by today’s hearings is going to vary once again by the party you give your allegiance to. This should not be true but it is. I doubt that people who pledge allegiance to Donald Trump will be swayed by such wonky legal evidence or such a respectfully conducted set of questions as the Democrats offered. This will most likely be the end of the Mueller report, but the proceedings did nothing to overturn the historical moments documented in the report. Trump may be reelected and may run out the legal clock and thereby escape indictment or conviction for his crimes, but what our historical documents say about Trump and his Presidency will not be kind or in any way respectful, if our historical record is allowed to say anything honest at all. This President likes to rewrite history to erase the negative things he does. What version of history survives will tell us whether our democracy made it through the Trump years.

Rachel Maddow

I will remind anyone who watches Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that she taught us what we needed to know to understand the Mueller Report before it was ever completed. She did not have spies on the Special Prosecutor’s investigation; she put everything together with journalistic talent and meticulous attention to detail. She always knew the current target of the investigation and with the help of her staff was aware of all the relevant news reports and articles by reputable news writers. She was apprised of all Trump’s many statements and all his tweets and offered us quotes that were also echoed in the press. She read us transcripts of trials, showed us footage of arrests, kept us informed of future court appearances and speculated about the identity of witnesses mentioned only by monikers like Individual 1 or 2. If anyone should get an award for coverage of the Mueller Investigation it should be Rachel Maddow. It is small wonder that Democrats who watched MSNBC knew immediately that Bill Barr (AG) was lying about the conclusions Mueller reached in his report and American’s who watched Fox News were unprepared to accept this reality.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Cassidy in the New Yorker