Who’s Coup-ing Who?

Who’s ‘Coup-ing’ Who?

Often we think of a government coup as a revolution, an attempt by one ideological group to wrest the reins of government from those currently in power. We see it as a quick bloody battle where the perpetrators run a risk of death or imprisonment if they don’t succeed. If those in power lose then a new leader sits in the seat of power and sets policy. Those who rise to power can execute, imprison, or exile the ousted leader and his/her followers.

Overturning a leader through a democratic election usually is not considered a coup. Donald Trump is trying to change that. He claims that the Democratic Party is attempting a coup against him. The House is attempting to take over the executive branch, he says. Of course, in this case the Democrats in the House of Representatives are exercising legal prerogatives assigned to them in the Constitution of the United States. Congress is supposed to act as a check if the executive branch looks as if it has gone rogue. All that means is that they are allowed to ask questions and collect facts to make sure that a President and others in the Executive Branch are upholding their oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution and historical practice places few limits on the investigative powers of the House or Senate Congressional Committees. Congress has oversight responsibilities over the Executive Branch. Investigation is Congress’s superpower.

Trump is a master of the craft of twisting reason until our brains feel ready to explode. He is claiming that the Democratic representatives in the House are using (or planning to use) their investigative powers to take over the Executive Branch and thereby, take over the American government. They are using the Constitution to invalidate the Constitution. (Did your brain explode yet?)

It is possible to have a bloodless coup, a coup whereby one political party pushes another political party out of power through chicanery and rigging elections. This kind of coup can take some time. Coups are things that generally happen in what we once named “third world countries”, countries where democracy is ‘iffy’, in places that are now labelled “illiberal democracies”- democracies in name only. We are supposed to be a “stable democracy”, well-established; the democracy, against which all others are measured.

But we have a President who accuses the Democratic Party of being traitors to the nation, of trying to turf him out of office and take over the government through a legal procedure called “impeachment”. Or perhaps, he asserts, they want to damage him so badly that he loses the 2020 election ( while at the same time he claims this is impossible.) Yes, he is obviously a desperate man, but he is accusing the Democrats of being traitors, guilty of treason!, just to wiggle out of having the nation hear the possible proofs of his bad behaviors.

He says that the Democrats are partisan, so they cannot be objective. Well that’s when I have to ask, “who’s coup-ing who”? The Democrats only appear to be partisan because the Republican Party has put them in that position. When Mitch McConnell said that he would obstruct everything Obama did he meant it and the GOP was behind all the disrespect towards Obama and the Dems that people insisted on blaming on both parties. It was the GOP who refused to do the compromise negotiations that have made our basically two-party system work. With obstruction, if one party absolutely refuses to compromise the other party must either capitulate completely or join in the standoff. Which party is partisan? Both I guess, but one by design, and one by default. The Republican Party has not stopped opposing the Democratic Party to this day.

We are in a pitched battle. It seems to be about the size of government and whether or not government should pay for programs that benefit the American people. It now seems to be also about whether or not America will be, going forward, a white, Christian nation. We are in this battle because industry fled and money went to safe havens and all the blood (money) went to the head (the wealthiest). Do we keep wealth inequality because these wealthy people deserve what they have (according to them)? We know what happens biologically when our lower body is deprived of blood flow. Will the same thing happen if less and less money ‘trickles down’ to those who are not at the very top of the social heap? Will the society die from within?

This picture of the future does not bother the Republicans, in fact they seek it, they are trying to hold on to this lop-sided distribution of life’s blood (which sadly, right now, is money). The Democrats would like to be the party of balance, of restoring a democracy which is fast disappearing The Democrats are not the ones who denied giving even a hearing to a legal nominee to the Supreme Court. The Democrats are not the ones who keep trying to use the “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue” strategy to pin their sins on the other party.

If anyone is staging a coup it is the Republican Party (which is now headed by Donald Trump). The GOP has been attempting to ‘own’ the entire federal government of the US and they have not been the least bit worried about doing this by the book. Tinkering with elections has been the GOP’s favorite weapon to use in their coup. They almost succeeded. In 2016, using a number of voter suppression and voter propaganda techniques (and perhaps by allowing a foreign government to interfere in an American election) they succeeded in taking over all three branches of government. They haven’t been able to hide their game plan so they just blatantly get on with it. Dems argue against these tactics and the GOP just laughs.

Although the GOP lost the House in 2018 they do not consider this will end their plans. This is a war and they only lost a battle. There is always another election and they are still tinkering, tinkering away. And if rigged elections don’t get them what they want the takeover of the states which they have been conducting will eventually succeed in turning enough states Red to trigger a Constitutional Convention and allow them to put the GOP stamp on our Constitution.

Trump is using the coup accusations flying around the internet these days to turn him into a victim (“poor president Trump”) of a ruthless political takeover by a party that is supposedly wielding the Constitution like a club. Ironically Democrats have learned that there are almost no tools available to fight a President or a political party willing to ignore the rules set down in our documents. The Democrats have never called what the Republicans are up to a coup, but I have. Now the Democrats are being accused of perpetrating a coup against Trump (and by association the Republicans). But he has simply taken the truth and twisted it to his advantage. Don’t believe him. If you use your head it’s pretty easy to tell who’s coup-ing who/m.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – The NYT, Twitter

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https://www.tremr.com/nancy-l-brisson-new-website-thearmchairobserver-/whos-coup-ing-who

 

Citizenship Question on 2020 Census – Supremes Decide

Right now the Supreme Court is considering whether to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, so it may be a bit late to express my deep concerns about the use of such a question during the tenure of this particular administration. Citizenship questions have appeared in the Census before, but not since 1960. Given the rabid attitudes about immigration expressed by Trump and backed up by his people (including the Republican Party) this is an especially fraught time to allow this question on this decade’s census. Undocumented people are basically being hunted down for deportation.

Accurate Count

In a climate like this how can we expect an accurate count of the people living in America right now. Census information becomes part of our nation’s permanent record offering up useful data to citizens simply seeking to know about their ancestors. Often people want to know their family’s history so they can improve their understanding of potential health challenges. Bad records offer bad data. If citizens have family members living with them who are undocumented, which is quite a common thing, they may avoid the census to protect relatives and friends from deportation.

Implications for Voting Rights

Trump has long sought lists of all US voters. I do not think he has the purest of reasons for wanting this information. He believes that suppressing voters who might lean left is a perfectly viable election strategy and he can’t even process the loud cries of “foul”. For any Fox News viewers who might stumble into this article by accident, suppressing votes is not OK for any reason in our democracy/republic.

However, ever since the Voter Rights Act turned 50 and the Supreme Court allowed the preclearance section of the law to be vacated, the Republicans and Trump have weaponized election tools to suppress Dem votes. Trump was not around when districts were so drastically gerrymandered that there are whole districts which will always vote Republican. The new Census can be used to readjust boundaries of voting districts once again. Trump plans to still be in power to help the GOP plunder the vote even more effectively than they did after the last census. Democrats, including Obama, are fighting some boundaries where there was clearly almost house-by-house gerrymandering but it is a long slog through the courts.

In districts that leaned to the left Republicans could play with things like cutting back on voting days, taking away polling places, trying to stop churches from taking people on buses directly to polling places to vote, choosing polling places that were not on stops of public transportation leaving voters off with some distance to walk to get to their polling place. Republicans could conduct purges of voter rolls, removing people who had not voted in a while. Obviously sometimes it is necessary to purge people from voter rolls who have moved or are deceased, but you don’t usually lose your voting rights because you decide not to vote. In North Carolina one Republican candidate had his people go house-to-house collecting absentee ballots and offering to fill them in for the voter. His illegal ‘strategy’ was uncovered and he lost his election bid, but the things that Republicans try to suppress the vote are not just shenanigans, they are serious breaches of the laws of the US, and winking while people attempt to get away with them is damaging to the validity of our elections, already under attack by Russia and China.

So it’s easy to imagine that one reason Republicans favor a citizenship question on the census goes something like this, “most immigrants tend to vote for Democrats, by discouraging an accurate count of immigrants we can hurt the Democrat votes, all is fair in love and elections (except that is not true) and if we do this we the GOP can win in 2020.”

More Nefarious Purposes?

There is another problem with putting a citizenship question on the 2020 Census and the problem is that it is possibly motivated by fascism, not any democratic impulse. That list that Trump wanted of all voters was not forthcoming because it is un-American and invades our freedom. Now he is salivating at the thought of a list of all of the undocumented immigrants in America and not because they are voters. The GOP and Trump like to keep whispering (loudly) in our ears that undocumented people are voting illegally and I suppose a few who have fraudulent ID’s could go vote, but I doubt if the numbers are large as such people tend to hide, to not call attention to themselves by signing public registers, which voters are required to do. He also does this in case he needs to “prove” that an election is rigged, something he seems to worry about a lot, because he needs to win.

But the other reason Trump is gleefully anticipating a positive ruling by the Supremes is because then he would have a sort of ‘gestapo’ list of names and addresses of undocumented people living in America. I’m not sure why he thinks that people in hiding from an aggressive I.C.E. will answer the census accurately, but he wants to try, even at the risk of getting inaccurate census data that will misguide many national decisions over the next ten years. I hope the Supreme Court has not moved this far to the right and will give us a sensible ruling appropriate to these times when white supremacy is being used to whip up divisions in America.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Democracy Now!

 

 

Republicans and Trump Question Validity of the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party

Republicans and Trump Question Validity of the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party (or in GOP speak, the Democrat Party)

The Democrats won enough seats in the House of Representatives in 2016 to become the majority party in that legislative branch of Congress. The GOP still has a majority in the Senate. The Democrats, when they won the House, won the right to conduct investigations of the executive branch. Congress has a vital role to use checks and balances to keep the executive branch from adventures in authoritarianism, such as the ones occurring in the administration of Donald Trump.

Clearly we have in the White House (where the executive branch is housed) a leader who is in serious need of some checks and balances. Just this week that leader, our president said, “No one disobeys me.”

This same president refuses to provide the investigations of well-respected committees in the House with his tax and other financial documents which our laws state “shall be turned over upon request”. This president swore an oath to protect and defend the very laws that he is defying. He apparently uses the Constitution as a pack of napkins to mop up from his “happy meal”. He also refuses to let his staff, present or former, testify before any of the House investigative committees. You would think that he might be worried about the optics of such an imperial dictate, but this president doesn’t respect the American people enough to worry about what they think. For him, it is enough that his own followers and his own news outlet will find his exercise of authority strong, rather than dismissive of our laws.

To most of us it appears that Trump ignores the very basis of our republic, that he verbally rewrites the entire power structure that has guided our nation for approximately 240 years by making the executive the branch around which all other branches revolve. However, that is the place in which our forefathers put the Congress. Trump is turning the presidency into an absolutist office served by the rest of the executive branch (including the Justice Department), by the Congress and by the courts. Trump is the “sun” around which the “planets” revolve.

This could be an insurrection of sorts, it could be a coup, it could be treason. America will cross the line from a democratic republic to an autocracy if Trump is able to ignore the Constitution and our laws with impunity, if he is able to ignore the sections of our documents which require him to respect both houses of Congress and all Americans, not just his own party.

Presidents being investigated often try to make such an investigation impossible with a number of squirmy strategies. This is not the first Congress to have to corral the powerful. But we have a president who seems to be able to use verbal abuse and victimhood to wiggle out of any negative judgment. How can this man who is so obviously a threat to our democracy/republic have people so loyal they will risk our freedom by their willingness to suspend the rules?

Democrats in the House will fight back, will get subpoenas to take Trump to court, but not if the Senate and Republicans will not honor the powers of the House when Democrats make up the majority. Republicans heckle Democrats, distract by blaming Obama or Hillary or demonizing the Democrats, bringing up old business, sometimes in statements that are blatantly ridiculous, sometimes in ways that send everyone scrambling to fact checkers to recheck claims that have already been proven false many times. If there is a public committee hearing, Republicans act like the boys who used to sit in the back row of the classroom in high school. I think their behavior goes beyond normal antagonism into derision and reflects more poorly on them than on their opponents.

Trump has placed himself in a position where he can stand alone as the “chief obstructer”, because he has sidelined any opposition with his contempt and stubbornness, and has surrounded himself with those who are finally faithful only to him. Has he won control of America? Has he already taken over, or do Democrats still have a chance to turn things around, to make our documents matter again? If Trump can keep saying no and delaying Dem investigations all the way until the 2020 election that will put him in a very powerful position, even though it should have exactly the opposite effect.

Trump could never obstruct and delay if the Republican Party had not already bowed down to Trump. They believe that Trump helps their Party, but the relationship works the other way around. The GOP enables and defends Trump as he takes over America right in front of their eyes. He does not do this for the Republican Party. He does this for himself. Trump does not share power. We should never forget the role of the Republican Party in all this. Their actions are seditious.

Our documents do not say that once you go through a special investigation you are not required to cooperate in any Congressional investigation. Trump insists that the special investigation makes all other investigation unnecessary, despite the fact that Mueller never looked at Trump’s finances, or the emoluments issues raised by that hotel in Washington, or the nepotism of placing family members in important government positions. And although Republicans and the DOJ say that Trump was totally exonerated by the Mueller Report, the Mueller Report itself, and the Democrats do not agree.

However, because Trump is willing to trample on the Constitution, to basically ignore it as if it does not exist, he thereby makes our most central government document worthless. Because he is willing to deny power to a party even once it has won a majority further destroys the credibility of our system of government. That means that as long as Trump is in office there is no Constitutional government in the United States of America.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search: ACLU

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The Mueller Report: Game Over: Not So Fast

Everything we thought was true, that which we have seen exposed over and over again (in some of our news) turns out to be true. The Mueller Report tells us this. Game Over – I think not. There is little in there that we did not already know. We have a President who will do anything to stay in power, although he was quite surprised when he won it. Was his surprise genuine? I doubt it. This is not a man who cares a hoot about being genuine. He had his guys put the fix in and they are all in jail for it. But he kept this hands clean, no paper trail to him, no tapes, just word-of-mouth. What people say is easily challenged, easily turned into a personal attack, slander, their-word-against-mine. Our laws will never get closer to this guy than what the Mueller Report managed to seek out and tell us. Our President is friends with mobsters and knows better than to leave evidence behind of his misdeeds.

How near crisis are we in America and in the world? How near a critical point in the transformation of our democracy/republic into an authoritarian state? How close to coastal flooding and weather too violent to ignore? How close to the death of our oceans? Whether or not we can afford to take our sweet time and make sure we have the goods on this man while he tramples our laws and our values and our institutions is not a question to be taken lightly. Trump proves through the testimony of his familiars that he would do anything to get his way, anything to protect himself, and anything to get reelected to an office that he disrespects, and does not comprehend or honor.

The Senate will not impeach. We know this. Trumpists around the country believe the new AG when he says that Trump is in the clear. But these are people who have taken us a long way down the road to destruction both at home and abroad, people who only seem to care that the economy seems temporarily improved. When America is finally ruined who will we blame, the people who didn’t see through Trump, or the people who did who did not do enough to stop the desecration of our nation? Will impeachment from only the House of Representatives wake up the bewitched? Impeachment doesn’t mean that a President has to give up his/her office. I don’t know if impeachment will work.

I thought the law was a muscular thing; that there was power and justice in the law. But when it comes to the powerful and the wealthy the law seems quite “dainty”. Lawyers intone on our television sets all day long. One day they find that Trump is despicable and bad for America. But then they equivocate, because we have written America into a corner where a sitting President cannot be indicted. Today the same lawyer who spoke with some passion yesterday now is pontificating about using our powers of reason, and is rationalizing inaction.

If any person without power or wealth in America did the things this President has done or tried to do s/he would be in jail. If we have a Constitution that does not allow us to protect our nation against a scheming President, a President who cares more about what he personally can “win”, not for the nation but for himself, and the adulation of his deluded followers, what loyalty he can command through fear, not through worth; when our Constitution does not protect us from such a person then that document is no longer enough to provide a government that works for we the people.

Our Constitution assumes that we will elect someone with integrity and a broad philosophical view which will keep our nation safe from plunder and dismantlement, or from weakness that allows a foreign power to exploit us. We have let a person with no integrity, no depth of view, a destroyer into our government instead. And now we find ourselves with no way to free ourselves that does not further the destruction of our freedoms and rights and the apparatus that allows us to keep these abstract and hard-won values. If the election doesn’t work, only mass demonstrations and chaos will offer any hope of restoring our nation to the framework provided and maintained by our ancestors. We also cannot stop governing for elections. There is always an election on the horizon.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NJ.com

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Brain Download-Unconstitutional President, Columbine, Notre Dame, and the 2020 Election

Brain Download-Unconstitutional President, Columbine, Notre Dame, and the 2020 Election – Mid-April 2019

Trampled Norms

Journalists and authors, both professional and not, have written about the way Trump and the Republicans are crushing the “guardrails” of our documents and our laws (How Democracies Die).  In an article on 4/17/2019 the newest incarnation of these columns raised alarms about these threats to our democracy.

The article discusses the ways Trump and the compliant Republicans have actually crossed red lines, or have shown that they are willing to cross certain red lines, especially when it comes to the laws Trump wants to ignore or overturn in order to stop asylum seekers from entering the US, and his desire to ship migrants off to sanctuary cities, actions that would break current laws. He gets mad and he gets even (if he can) and he does not seem to let a little thing like a law stand in his way. None of us, the article says, are any too happy about the way Republicans are stuffing the courts with uncredentialed judges, either.

David Rothkopf, writing in The Daily Beast today, arrives at the same dilemma we all keep facing. What can we do about it? He also feels that an effective response strategy is more necessary than ever after Trump’s willingness to break laws, which escalated once again last week. He doesn’t offer any suggestions we already haven’t thought of and now that we are in the election cycle we are unlikely to heat up the resistance.  But he is right, we should, because 6 more years of Trump and the Republicans will most likely make American democracy have a near-death-experience (or die an authoritarian death).

https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-and-co-are-crossing-big-bright-red-linesand-theyre-getting-away-with-it

Columbine Connection

Today – 4/17/2019 is almost exactly a decade (sorry for my math, two decades) after the Columbine shooters shocked our nation (4/20/1999) and today an eighteen year old, who had an unhealthy interest in the Columbine shooters and that whole terrible day, a girl who searched the internet about how to buy a gun in Colorado, made authorities nervous enough to shut down schools near Columbine. Not only did she ask about purchasing a gun, she actually went to Colorado and bought one when she arrived from Miami. She was found dead this morning. Possibly when she realized that everyone was looking for her she may have killed herself, thinking that was the only thing she felt she could do.

It seems that authorities are beginning to get ahead of potential shooters by treating tips and internet posts seriously and being proactive. They have been able to stop several shooters lately before the tragic mass shootings they were planning happened. This is a good thing. Although it may not be enough to stop all mass shootings. We didn’t lose any innocent students today but it is still sad to lose another young person to a mental script that doesn’t offer rewards to anyone, especially any of the rewards that s/he thinks such an act will bring. We need to find out why our culture produces so many young people attracted to such appalling violence.

Notre Dame

A friend reminds me that Notre Dame, built in the 12 th century (the 1100’s) was built on the backs of peasants who moved the large stones which were used to construct the great cathedrals. Were they slaves or were they paid? If they were paid, they were most likely not well paid. My friend also reminds me that these cathedrals took decades to build so that parents, and their children, and their children’s children ( and more generations) carried stone to the builders without ever hoping to earn enough for a better life. And these same peasants who performed the most back-breaking labors also knew they would never be allowed to enter the cathedral when it was finished.

Ken Follett in The Pillars of Earth,described (or imagined) the building of one of the great cathedrals in England. If he used more facts than imagination, the building of a cathedral was a huge operation that required many talented builders with a variety of skills. A whole city grew up around the site of a build as there had to be houses for workers, food for workers, drinks and drinking establishments, and eventually even guilds for workers and a town or city government for order. So cathedral building may have offered more advantages than building the pyramids in Egypt seems to have offered.

Still we now have billionaires pitching in to rebuild Notre Dame and we have French people who need to see those billions invested in jobs and better pay for French people. People first, rebuilding second some protestors are saying. This sad loss of a religious and national treasure is teaching us another lesson about what happens when an economy does not equitably distribute money that people need to live. We see that someone can afford to offer their wealth in exchange for their soul when a cathedral is involved, but who seem to misinterpret what their soul really requires. Actually some people have become so rich that they could hedge their bets by doing both.

The 2020 Election -Speaking of Money

The Democrats are happy to have so many candidates running in their primary for the 2020 election. They are also trying to answer charges that Republicans have popularized, arguments which paint Democrats as being more in love with big money than Republicans are. I guess all is fair in love and elections, but we are a capitalist country and Democrats live in the same economy as everyone else. Are we now supposed to have two disparate economies, in addition to two political parties with nothing in common?

We are aware of how the GOP demonizes the Democrats. Why are we having this moment of purity about Wall Street and money? Young people are idealistic and easily persuaded to be critical, and their parents did have their 60’s moment when they learned that economics was not the only basis for a thriving culture. They saw that many cynical leaders thought of war as a way to keep the economy booming, and of course, keep communism from spreading. From what we are seeing of the spread of authoritarianism our leaders were perhaps not totally cynical. And these young people did not come of age in the job market their parents found after they left school.

So we see Democrats trying to promise that they will use only grassroots dollars. This is a political reform that is sorely needed but obviously, at this moment, the opposing party is unlikely to reciprocate. And while Dem leaders may not want to limit the Dem field I am starting to get a bit nervous about how I will offer support to all these primary candidates. My donations are small even when the number of candidates is small. Now I am beginning to worry that I will not be able to be a good Democrat. My pocketbook will not allow it. I suppose I could choose one candidate and concentrate on that one person but there are several people that I like. It seems so overwhelming that sometimes I think about keeping all my dollars for myself. I hope this doesn’t describe too many Democrat supporters and voters. How will Dems successfully compete against Trump with his hand in the deep pockets of the Republican political apparatus?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Newsweek

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami – Book

 

“Beware the double metaphors”, our artist, our main character, our guy in an early mid-life crisis is told by the Commendatore. Haruki Murakami bends our brains in fiction once again and his readers, and I, enjoy every minute.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami does something several books have done recently. It begins at the end and then fills us in. Of course by the time I immerse myself in this story I forget that it is all a flashback. The end of the story we get in the beginning is hardly definitive. But we do meet the artist, acting like a true artist in that little scene.

In present time (in the novel) he is feeling that his life has robbed him of the excitement and ambitions he once had as an artist. He, in a way, blames his wife. He rationalizes that he has had to be practical since he is a family man. He earns his living painting portraits and as his wife works away from home and he is often working at home, he does most of the housework. He feels he has “sold out” by painting portraits, which he considers a lesser form of art. He is feeling dead inside. Just when he is most dissatisfied with life and his art his wife asks for a divorce, says she is sleeping with another man and will not sleep with two men at once.

Yuzu’s husband (the artist) grabs a few clothes (very few) and begins a long journey in his car along the northern coast of Japan. Until he begins naming roads he could be living anywhere. He could be any modern man in any modern nation. He ends his journey months later when he has a very strange and concerning sexual encounter with a young woman and meets the possibly evil man in the white Subaru Forester.

His old college friend and fellow student Masahiko offers him the small mountain house where his father, the famous artist Tomahiko Amada, who is now in a nursing home with dementia, had his studio. Masahiko cannot care for the home as he works and lives in Tokyo.

Up to now. I must say, our artist (unnamed) seems more like an engineer. He has a very pragmatic approach to his wife’s confessions and his road trip. But Haruki Murakami paints his portrait with words. Our guy cannot have a boring identity crisis or get to know himself without going through an ordeal.

From the time he enters that mountain home his inner journey begins and it is a doozy. Temple bells ring in the dead of night with no temple nearby, a deep and magical pit is uncovered with meticulous and unusual stonework walls. There is a secret painting Tomahiko Amada has hidden in the attic with the pretty little owl, there is a collection of opera and classical music on vinyl, and there is a millionaire neighbor with a purring silver Jaguar (car) and many secrets. Then there is the young girl, Mariye, he meets in his children’s art class (about the same age as his beloved sister, Komi, who died as a young teen) and the older, married woman from his adult art class who we get to observe, along with the Commendatore, having satisfying illicit sexual relations with her teacher. Who is the Commendatore and how does he get killed? That I cannot tell you.

There is no blatant spirituality and our artist seems far too self-absorbed and modern to accommodate a deeply religious life, but, even so, in this novel the symbolism (the temple bell, the little shrine, the pit) and a certain sparseness in the prose give a religious tone to the artist’s inward journey. Whether it strikes you as spiritual or not, you can at least enjoy the novel as one great big entertaining Haruki Murakami double metaphor.

 

 

Stop the Moment: Nationalism v Globalism

We are in a moment which some of us want to suspend in time. Think about it as a photographic moment, a photo snapped in a moment just before change will most likely happen. Some would like to take that photo of this moment in time, superimpose it on the world and make the world conform to this photo in perpetuity. This has set up the battle between the nationalists and the globalists, between the right and the left.

Networking

That stop-action photo would show, some say, a Eurocentric world dominated by the new kid on the block, a shiny America full of certainty and trim, well-built up-standing men, young and old with very straight teeth. The photo moment would show a world that is Christian, white, and speaks English. Those who wish to suspend time argue that everything of value has come from Europeans,white people, and mostly from white people who speak English.

However, it is unrealistic to expect the world to hold still. It never does. Civilizations rise and fall although they may make permanent contributions that continue to live on in our minds and our lives. So perhaps Europeans have fears that their moment is over, that the future will not be “white”, or we will no longer speak English, or be Christians. Perhaps America has these same fears. People believe that by sending everyone back to their country of origin the demise of Eurocentrism can be staved off. We tempt fate by mixing Muslims and Christians, by allowing people to speak foreign languages in English-speaking spaces. We hasten the end of the familiar when we mix cultures and open the door to the undefined, to chance, to an evolution that we can’t pinpoint the end result of.

In Europe it is Arabic immigrants and asylum seekers who threaten to change the face and language of Europe. The romance languages will no longer reign supreme. Latin and Greek roots could be replaced with languages imported from lands that have languished in the backwaters of history either by chance or design, although they were once the centers of thriving human empires. In America the situation is similar, except that the people of South America are Christian and many are white, but most do not speak English and they come from nations that have also lagged behind in terms of economics and what we call progress, although these cultures also had their moments in the sun.

Holding the world still is not easy, nor is it comfortable. In order to make change seem to stop, all kinds of irrational behaviors must become acceptable, all the lessons of centuries must be overturned. Immigration must be prevented. Centuries of mingling cultures and sharing ideas and designs that have enriched life must end. Humanitarian cooperation becomes treason. Fear must be stoked, differences must be emphasized, horrible consequences must be described as imminent realities.

Do I want Sharia law to be the law of the land? Not really. As a woman the thought is quite frightening. But if we are kind to displaced Muslims does that mean our democracy will be forced to adopt Sharia law? Or is that what will happen if we lose the imaginary war against Muslim nations? I know we are at war with terrorists with extreme views, but I did not know that we were at war with all Muslims. If we take them in as a humane gesture will they eventually turn on us and conquer, or will their customs gradually replace ours? We imagine the worst because some bad things have happened. But clearly not all Muslims are terrorists. We know this.

How do we end up in America with Sharia law through our southern border as certain fringe voices contend? Weirdos are certainly having their moment as we attempt to stop the world. On Fox “News” they warn about the imminent dangers of Sharia law as if Americans are being hustled into Islamic courts and stoned and beheaded every day, straight from seemingly normal American neighborhoods.

Why are people like Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro the voices Americans listen to? We never used to listen to these voices. We recognized them as haters. Today I heard Steve Bannon opine that Trump’s election was delivered to us by God. This was not hidden away online in Breitbart News; it was on TV news (and not Fox). Suddenly we love to listen to extreme views. They are being normalized, made more mainstream. The Divine Right of Donald Trump. Really?

The death of our humanitarian viewpoints, the fears, the desire to retreat into our comfortable shells, this all has to do with wanting to stop progress, to hold the world steady. We all know the world does not work this way. It rotates, it revolves, it circles the universe in an arm of the Milky Way. It sits on tectonic plates riding on molten lava which means that the surface of our world is never still. Musical tastes change, clothing styles and hair styles change, theories change, and climate is changing. None of it will stay steady until the earth dies, and maybe not even then.

Will trying to stop trends we see occurring change outcomes? Won’t the very act of trying to stop the world from changing bring change? Maybe. Since we can’t experience alternative paths we will never really know if we were able to prevent a negative future, or even a more positive future by trying to engineer the future we want.

Can humans engineer the future or is the future immutably organic? Is there really a cabal of wealthy white men (and perhaps a token woman) who are keeping the world moving on a track of their own design? Can we engineer a halt to the evolution of human culture, to nations and governments, create something like the damage to a vinyl record that made it repeat and repeat, never move on without a nudge? To most of us it seems as if the earth will turn and human history will change whether we will it or not.

And yet we argue that humans have changed climate on our planet. But it also seems clear that we didn’t have to change it very much to have fairly profound effects on our comfort levels. So we can possibly stop human history for a while but the effects of such an attempt are unknowable. Is it possible to send everybody back to the Middle East and put it back together as it once was? Is it possible to make South American countries function better than they are? We’ve tried regime change and it was a disaster. We tried aid and sometimes that helps but not if bad people steal the aid and profit from it. If climate change is indeed changing the ability to farm in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) what can be done about that?

The world will always change whether we like it or not. Engineering the change to keep it peaceful and slow and profitable for all might be possible if we could work together, but stopping change seems like a futile project and just trying to keep the present in place makes it more likely that when change eventually overwhelms our puny attempts to stall it, change may come in a dramatic uncontrollable leap. This argues that nationalism is a futile movement and globalism will most likely prevail despite the fears some express about it.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Art and Design Gallery, Odyssey, new.harvard.edu, Cagle.com, You Tube, fineartamerica.com, Quote Master

The News of Our Lives in Headlines

The headlines on any given day reflect the world’s drift towards authoritarianism, economic slowing, the breakdown of humanitarian norms and of democratic norms, at least in terms of the sad evolutionary trend of world governments and our own American government. (There is upheaval in the hive.)

Last week The New York Times published an eye-opening in-depth piece on the Rupert Murdoch family of media fame. What happens when the business a man wants to corner is the news business? What if this person has an ideological reason to horde newspapers, magazine, TV stations, radio stations, and corners of the internet? What do we do when this guy is able to use his empire to decide who gets to stay in political office and who doesn’t? This Murdoch family with its home base in Australia, also has enormous influence in Great Britain, Canada, and America (through Donald Trump especially). Rupert Murdoch owns Fox. What happens when this billionaire media grabber gets old and frail and has to decide which of his two sons (his daughters were not in the running) to leave his almost monopoly to? He wants to continue to grow his empire even from the grave. This is a royal tale that harkens back to the succession of kings.

So be sure to check out the Rupert Murdoch story from last week. Great stuff!

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/03/magazine/rupert-murdoch-fox-news-trump.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/03/magazine/new-fox-corporation-disney-deal.html

“ Murdoch embodies these same contradictions. He’s an immigrant stoking nationalism, a billionaire championing populism and a father who never saw any reason to keep his family separate from his business, and in fact had deliberately merged the two.”

“Murdoch used the same playbook in the United States. In 1980, he met Roy Cohn — the former adviser to Senator Joseph McCarthy and a Trump mentor — who introduced him to Gov. Ronald Reagan’s inner circle. It was a group that included Roger Stone Jr., another Trump confidant and the head of Reagan’s New York operations, who said in a later interview that he helped Murdoch weaponize his latest tabloid purchase, The New York Post, on Reagan’s behalf in the 1980 election. Reagan’s team credited Murdoch with delivering him the state that year — Murdoch gave Stone an Election Day printing plate from The Post over a celebratory meal at the 21 Club — and his administration subsequently facilitated Murdoch’s entry into the American television market, quickly approving his application for American citizenship so he could buy TV stations too”

It’s a juicy story!

The News in Headlines-Four Sources

Here are a few headlines from today’s news outlets (4.9.2-19):

The Daily Beast

Israeli Prez Rebukes BiBi, Signs Controversial Law in Arabic

Evangelicals Side with Trump Over Jesus on Immigration

Prince William’s Lawyer Tries to Suppress Rumors of Affair

Trump Lets Foster Agency Turn Away Catholics and Jews: in their zeal to stop gay people from adopting kids

Bill Barr: I’m Not Giving Congress Unredacted Mueller Report

Pastor Knocked for Critiquing Women: ‘Find a Good Bra’

NYC Declares Public Health Emergency Over Measles Outbreak

Iranian Lawmaker’s Chant ‘Death to America’ in Parliament

‘Italy’s Trump’ Launches Campaign to Destroy Europe

How Stephen Miller Has More Power Than Ever

New DHS Boss Is the Guy Who Led Family Separations

The New York Times

Mnuchin Says White House and Treasury Discussed Trump Tax Return Request

Barr Tells Congress He Will Deliver Mueller Report within A Week

Trump Says the US is ‘Full’: Much of the Nation Disagrees (Map)

The Trump Organization Facing Questions About its Staff, is Quietly Trying to Remove Undocumented Workers in South Florida

Why Does Trump Want to Debase the Fed?

Who is Left to Say No to Trump?

Netanyahu’s Biggest Enabler in Upending US Policy: Trump

Democrats Electorate on Twitter: Not the Same as Wider Party Base

Two People are Arrested After a University of North Carolina Slave Memorial was Defaced with Racial Slurs and Urine

With ‘Unplanned’ Abortion Opponents Turn Toward Hollywood

Salon

Why the Jewish State Became An Oppressor

Do Democrats Want a Woman in 2020

Experts Warn About the Dangerous New Superbug Candida

Stephen Miller Takes Command: Trump’s shadow chief of state wields his dark magic

Big Telecom companies are Suppressing Fast Internet

There’s An Economic Price for Rose-Tinted Policies in America and Britain

What Should You Expect From Israel’s elections? More Bibi, More or Less

When the GOP uses the Word “bartender” to mock AOC, It Shows its Ugly Classism

William Barr suggests Trump Administration could lose Court Battle Aiming to Overturn Obamacare

The Washington Post

White House Lawyers Consulted Treasury on Trump’s Tax Returns, Mnuchin Says

Barr Says Release of Mueller Report is Likely within a Week

Amazon in Seattle: Economic Godsend or Self-Centered Behemoth

Trump Removes Secret Service Director as Purge of DHS Leaders Widens

Grassley Warns White House not to Oust Any More Top Immigration Officials

NYC Declares Public Health Emergency amid Measles Outbreak and Orders Mandatory Vaccinations

‘Kick Kavanaugh Off Campus’: Student’s Decry George Mason’s Decision to Hire Supreme Court Justice

‘Every race but white will die’: An Oklahoma Woman Went on a Vandalism Spree to Scare Jewish People, Police Say

In a Broadside Against Airbus, US Pursues Tariffs on a Host of Products from Europe

White House Bid to Dispute Climate Change Finds Few Takers in Federal Government

With the Brexit Clock Ticking Down: May Heads to Paris and Berlin to Plead for More Time

Iran’s Leaders Warn US after it Names ‘Revolutionary Guard’ a Terrorist Group

The Issues 2020 Democrats Are Running On According to their Social Media (Graphic)

Republicans to Trump: Your Immigration Shake-Up Makes No Sense

Erdogan’s Party Calls for New Election in Istanbul After Losing Mayor’s Race

The Daily 202: Trump is Teeing Up Stress Tests for Several Institutions from DHS to DOJ and the IRS

You can use a search engine to find any of these articles whose headlines tempt you to read more. Subscribe to newspapers, save real news!

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Marketing Mag

Venting and Other Mixed Metaphors

Every so often I start to feel like a volcano sitting over roiling hot lava that could go off at any moment and vent smoke and ash everywhere until the pressure inside calms. When Trump’s defiance of traditional America norms reaches a peak ‘you can’t touch this’ moment it is difficult to keep my internal pressure gauge from entering the danger zone. But I am not self-destructive. So, instead I sum it up by saying that it is getting to the point where I don’t know what to say anymore, except to beg the universe to please make it stop. Donald Trump, playboy, real estate developer, TV reality show CEO, has turned into an old man I do not recognize as a fellow America. And yet he is our president, the face our nation shows the world.

Of course the difficulty must lie with me and my mind that can not wrap itself around the things this man does. He grew up in the same country as I did, at almost the exact same time that I did but he does not share one idea about how America should work in common with me. How can that be?

I cannot psychologically grasp how his path could take him to where he is now and yet intellectually I do get it. Lots of powerful people surround themselves with sycophants. They get their egos stroked, they have no opposition to their projects, and no one corrects them even if they begin to go off the rails in terms of strict legality.

Compared to Trump I had nothing all my life. He had plenty and he could go back to his father for more anytime. Yet he is so stingy, so small-minded, so locked in his rich white male privilege that he can say things like “America is full”, “we can’t take any more people”. How did a life full of adventures and possibilities make him so limited in his viewpoints?

When he sees people leaving their homes because they are being threatened by thugs and their economy is in freefall due to factors beyond the people’s control, factors like global market changes and climate changes affecting crops, he doesn’t see people in crisis, he sees animals, criminals, undesirables.

Apparently the people who have the most trouble being compassionate are those who have been the most fortunate. They horde their money and grumble that “these people will not get a dime of it”. Of course they don’t only begrudge people from other nations, they do not plan to share a dime with other Americans either. They argue that if you are unsuccessful it is your fault. Perhaps the decisions he makes are made so cynically, out of greed only, that he imagines everyone has similar motives.

He now refuses to signal his underlings that they need to release the Mueller report. I never really thought he would want to see it released. He was unashamedly open about firing an AG and replacing that AG with one who thinks Presidents have absolute powers.

We the people let this happen because we have left the active resistance movement to a handful of passionate people. But it seems all bets are off right now anyway. Petitions, letters, demonstrations, a media message that counters right wing propaganda – none of it seems to make any difference whatsoever. This could be why we are in election mode so early.

While it is true that this special investigator, Mueller, was appointed and tasked by the Justice Department, there were no qualms about using taxpayer dollars to finance the investigation. Our dollars should buy us access to the findings of this investigation. On my Facebook page when my readers respond to my articles they say, “it’s over, give it up”. But I say “not a chance” even though I doubt we will ever see an unredacted copy of this report we paid for.

It is a fairly long tradition to have access to a president’s tax returns. Democrats have the con in the House of Representatives and so they get to ask to see Trump’s tax returns. This should not involve demonizing the Dems and insulting them and making them sound like they are traitors.

Yes political parties have always done some trash-talking but this goes way deeper than that. Demonizing is the correct term and this tactic is only this effective when you have a media outlet that hammers home every pronouncement a president makes all day, every day to an already brainwashed audience of our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, aunts and uncles.

People who never before cared two cents about what happens in Israel are now telling me that the Democrats are anti-Semitic. And yet I believe it is still true that most Jewish Americans are Democrats. They got this ridiculous lie straight from Trump. They will fight for him on any ground like a mother fights for her children. They do not see through him. How can they not see through him?

This has gone on for two long years. The details of the chaos change but it all has one thing in common. Either Trump wins or the Constitution and our traditions win; both cannot win with this guy. Dems believe that if at least one party sticks to regular order Trump and the Republicans cannot permanently change the way America is governed. They believe that even though everyone is sounding fairly extreme, somehow the center will hold and perhaps move a bit to the left. Meanwhile the courts are being stuffed with very conservative judges.

Trump is a destroyer. He is a rogue driver of a monster truck. He doesn’t mind physical violence but what he likes best is mental abuse, using the simplest language to inflict the greatest damage. He’s very good at it. He obliterates reason, creates a black hole, and fills it with white supremacy and male toxicity. He embraces those who parrot him and vilifies those who oppose him. Honesty and sincerity are for chumps. He does not admire chumps.

We are damned if we frog march him out of the White House without using Constitutional governance and procedures. We are damned if we leave him in place trouncing our documents and showing us over and over that they have no teeth; that we have handed over too much power to our presidents.

I would love to see the IRS hand over Trump’s taxes. I would celebrate if at least our elected representatives in Congress get to see the unredacted Mueller report. I don’t even know what to wish for at the Southern border but I know it isn’t a wall and it isn’t a big fat zero as the number of asylum seekers allowed to live and work in America. My pressure gauge is likely to continue to get a real workout, but the 2020 election could blow it out altogether. Expect really poisonous rhetoric from Trump and the Republicans and an attempt to hold a democratic election from the Dems.

Photo credit: From a Google Image Search – New York Post

 

 

Milkman by Anna Burns – Book

Milkman by Anna Burns follows none of the rules for storytelling or literary fiction that we are used to. The novel seems to be written as one long sentence (of course it isn’t really). I enjoy reading authors who try something new, especially if they do it well. Anna Burns does it well enough.

Middle sister comes of age in a divided culture, almost a tabloid culture. It is a paranoid, male-dominated place in a perpetual state of war (although most of the fighting happens elsewhere) with the “over the border”, “across the waters” people. Readers identify this unnamed country as Northern Ireland because Middle sister speaks of the on-going hostilities as ‘the troubles’. Men are either renouncers, soldiers, paramilitaries or police. Terrorist bombs from unidentified groups occasionally plague the residents and acts of personal terror up to and including death happen frequently enough to keep people on edge. Toxic masculinity is the expected male behavior. Of course, not all men conform but those who don’t are not allowed much peace by those who enforce the convoluted code these folks live with.

Middle sister is also maybe-girlfriend to her car loving mechanic, maybe-boyfriend, who seems nice and who says he would like to not be a ‘maybe’ anymore. Middle sister has her own reasons for wanting to remain a ‘maybe’ for now. Middle sister does things that make her stand out in a culture where women especially are not supposed to stand out. She reads books while walking (nothing newer than the 19th century). Now that she is of marriageable age her behavior is considered deliberately provocative. She is not being properly observant of possible dangers. She is too self-absorbed. She attracts the attention of the creepy, middle-aged Milkman (who is not the real Milkman).

Around her in her single state swings the true chaos of this time and this place. Young people go to bars to drink and mingle – not to dance it seems. Some bars cater to only one group for example, the paramilitary, others attract a more mixed group –  a more dangerous situation with violent fights and explosions more likely. Once Milkman shows an interest in Middle sister other men in the bar scene back off and certain women begin to offer her tips about what to wear and how to act.

Her relationship with maybe-boyfriend continues as he is not part of the mainstream toxic male culture. Middle sister is seriously weirded out by Milkman. She no longer walks and reads. She now runs with Third brother-in-law rather than alone. She knows better than to get in Milkman’s cars or his van. Because of Milkman’s attentions Middle sister becomes an object of gossip because rumor has it that she is having an affair with this Milkman. Until her recent difficulties she did not see herself as belonging or identifying with these grown up mothers (including her own) and widows (lots of widows). As her fate gets more precarious she begins to learn of the subtle power these women have.

Maybe-boyfriend, the car guy, wins ownership of a ‘Blown Bentley’ engine from over the water. Gossips claim that he got to keep the bit with the flag (not the right flag), but he didn’t. Eventually Milkman uses this gossip to threaten maybe-boyfriend whenever he runs into Middle sister – not often if she can help it. He talks about “car bombs”. He’s a real subtle guy.

Some may find this book difficult to read, although words, at first, tend to be short and simple. The breakneck pace lacks pauses or temporary stops, and the vague war between basically unidentified enemies, all the jargon of a carefully controlled society, gets repetitive and makes us long for some specificity. But Middle sister makes the perfect protagonist because, although she knows the rules, she doesn’t always follow them. She is bright, and cautiously adventurous. On occasion her internal dialogue breaks away from the monosyllabic argot and reveals some pretty sophisticated language skills. Of course she was a girl who read books while walking.

Creating a world, or even turning a real world place into something more generic, is not always easy if it is to be a believable world that readers want to occupy for a time. For me the world of Middle sister in Milkmanby Anna Burns was well done. But see what you think about that ending.

You can also find me at:

https://nbrissonbookblog.com/

Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

Tremr.com as brissioni