Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Thursday, January 17, 2019


January 17, 2019
    A few days ago, I came across an interesting article from a British newspaper.  The headline, referring to a report by the Pentagon is, in part,  “climate change will destroy us.”  The subhead reads: “The US President has denied the existence of global warming. But a secret report predicts a looming catastrophe . . . .”  The President in question was George W. Bush, the article from February, 2004.[6]  A representative of Greenpeace noted: “You’ve got a President who says global warming is a hoax .”
    Nearly fifteen years have passed and the news is no different.  Here’s a report from November 27, 2018: “President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed a study produced by his own administration, involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists, warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change. Why, you ask? ‘I don't believe it,’ Trump told reporters.”[7]
    The Donald has a long history of dismissing evidence of dangerous climate change; here he is in 2014, tweeting as usual: “"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."  Given his intellectual limitations and biases, he isn’t likely to change his views, which is frightening.  The report he doesn’t believe includes this:
Climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action . . . . [Current efforts do not] approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.
That isn’t just an unproven theory, or a natural cycle.
Observations collected around the world provide significant, clear, and compelling evidence that global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced, with widespread and growing impacts. The warming trend observed over the past century can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate.”
Here are some results:
High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing. These and many other changes are clear signs of a warming world.[8]
    The report was released on the day after Thanksgiving, probably to minimize its impact. Compare the 2004 report: a former whistleblower at the EPA charged that “suppression of the report for four months was a further attempt of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.”  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Again: the 2004 article noted the “administration’s close links to high-powered energy and oil companies. . . .”  Trump has nominated a former lobbyist for coal companies to head the EPA.
    All we need to ensure climate disaster is to have another term or two of Republican rule.

_____________________________

6. The Observer, 2/22/04

7. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/26/politics/donald-trump-climate-change/index.html

8. Quotes from Fourth National Climate Assessment, “Introduction,”



Monday, January 14, 2019


January 14, 2019
     Some time back, I mused about the decline of our country.  Though a dismal thought, it isn’t mine alone.  I have referred to our ugly culture.  Another term would be decadent, borrowing from Jacques Barzun’s book,  From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life.  Barzun began with a definition of decadence which was intended to be descriptive rather than pejorative: "All that is meant by Decadence is ‘falling off.’ It . . . is a very active time, full of deep concerns, but peculiarly restless, for it sees no clear lines of advance.  The loss it faces is that of Possibility.”[1]   He offered illustrations of “the difference between the 16C and the 20th, between the dawn of a new culture and its close in disenchantment.”[2]  His five hundred year span was from A.D. 1500 to 2000, when his book was published.  The beginning date may seem arbitrary, serving his five-hundred year theme.  He notes that it is the commonly accepted date for the beginning of the modern era, but specifically points to 1517, when Luther posted his 95 theses, commencing the Reformation, as a turning point.  Barzun points out that the spread of Luther’s message was made possible by the printing press, developed around 1450 and in common use by 1500.  Another critical date is 1492, when Columbus sailed, changing the world forever.
     A.D. 1500 is as good a date as any to signify the transition from the medieval to the modern age, for the most part a step forward, certainly a step toward a more vigorous, open, free society.  Will and Ariel Durant, in introducing their volume The Age of Reason Begins, and referring to it and two volumes to follow, state that the “unifying theme of all three volumes will be the growth of reason.”[3]  That hardly describes the present time.  The era which began at the opening of the sixteenth century did not end in 2000; we are not in a new and vigorous time, but still are declining. 
     In the latter part of From Dawn to Decadence, in his analysis of modernism, Barzun’s use of "decadence" began to take on the more usual negative connotation, but even the original definition describes a dark scene: "The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully."[4]  He quotes Andy Warhol: "Art is what you can get away with." (A glance at the arts section of The New York Times would demonstrate that an “artist” can get away with anything).  We could add, quoting Richard Rorty, “Truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying,” which could serve as a motto for Mr. Trump. 
     Everything today seems to be Post-something else; no future is in sight.  The greatest risk, climate change, is met not with reasoned response but with denial, in effect ensuring that there will be no future.
     As to the painful functioning of institutions, consider the current shutdown or virtually any aspect of government in recent years.  As to the culture more generally, consider the state of political discourse, of language generally, of ideas, manners, morals and music; consider films and video games which provide vicarious violence, or the threats of violence by “patriot” groups, or actual violence abetted by the flood of unregulated guns. 
     Consider the support by avowed Christians for an immoral egotist.  Medieval Catholicism was challenged as corrupt by Luther; Protestant “Evangelical” Christianity, as practiced in this country, may be approaching a similar precipice due to its own corruption. 
      Is the problem, at least as to government, a failure of democracy?   Merriam-Webster defines democracy as follows: “government by the people especially, rule of the majority . . . .”  President Abraham Lincoln referred to “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  The irony of democracy is that government of the people works only if they are properly led.  That may take some of the bloom from government “by the people,” but it is inescapable.  The right sort of leaders — honest, informed, committed to the national welfare, not beholden to interests — are critical.  The wrong sort bring disaster; if that were not clear before, the advent of Donald Trump makes it so. “In a modern democracy it is possible to fool most of the people most of the time: but at a price.” [5]  Whether the people of the United States have declined in virtue and political judgment is a fair subject for debate; the decline of their leaders is clear. 
     Whatever the exact mix may be between bad citizens and bad leaders, the country is in a dire condition.  The present combination of an ignorant, foolish, resentful authoritarian as President, a docile Senate and a bigoted base is extremely, uniquely dangerous, but it did not arise from nothing. Some components of the present situation are structural, such as the undemocratic electoral college and the equally undemocratic Senate.  Some are the result of political manipulation, such as the gerrymandering of House districts.  Economic inequality exists in part because of the failure or indifference of government, and is made worse by tax cuts and attacks on social programs.  Much of government has been captured by moneyed interests, abetted by the absurd notion, imposed on us by the Supreme Court, that money is speech.
     There are danger signs in basic measures of national health.  Life expectancy has fallen; infant mortality, women’s death in childbirth and death rates among children all show either increases or poor results compared to other advanced countries, or both.  Homelessness persists in prosperous cities.
     Perhaps the recent election provides some slight hope of change, in the form of a check on the administration’s worst impulses and investigation into its misconduct.  Trump acts like a man who sees the walls closing in.  For once, let us hope that he is right.  Being rid of Trump wouldn’t usher in a new age, but it would remove one impediment to positive change.

___________________________

1.
From Dawn to Decadence, p. xvi

2.
Id. at p. 132

3. The Age of Reason Begins, p. vii, Volume VII in The Story of Civilization

4. From Dawn to Decadence, p. xvi

5. Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, p. 173


Monday, December 31, 2018


December 30, 2018
     The Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. District of Columbia did much to encourage pro-gun forces, less by its holding than by its loose language concerning gun rights and its rewriting of the Second Amendment to explain away the reference to militias.  Sometimes lost in general discussion of the case on both sides of the issue are qualifications and limitations in the opinion which may have left some doors ajar.  Gun-control forces should push those doors open.  In that spirit, last month Washington voters approved — 59.35% voting in favor — Initiative 1639, entitled The Public Safety and Semiautomatic Assault Rifle Act.[63]1   It amends the existing law on firearms, RCW 9.41.[64]2  How do the initiative’s provisions fare when compared to the language in Heller?  In addition, does existing law raise questions? [65]3

Dealers.
     The Supreme Court’s opinion stated that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on . . . laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” Existing law, as modified by I-1639, imposes such limits, described below.
     Initially, it complies with Heller’s reference to commercial sale of arms by limiting its restrictions on sale to “dealers.”  That term is defined in existing law as follows: “ ‘Dealer’ means a person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail who has, or is required to have, a federal firearms license under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 923(a).”  One who is not required to be so licensed is not a dealer “if that person makes only occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or sells all or part of his or her personal collection of firearms.”  Dealers are subject to rules which include background checks; more on that later.
     There should be no Heller problem in imposing limitations on sales by dealers, but existing RCW 9.41.113 extends the requirement of background checks to all “firearm sales or transfers, in whole or part in this state including without limitation a sale or transfer where either the purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in Washington . . . unless specifically exempted by state or federal law.”  This includes “sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons.”  If neither party is a licensed dealer, “the parties to the transaction shall complete the sale or transfer through a licensed dealer as follows:
(a) The seller or transferor shall deliver the firearm to a licensed dealer to process the sale or transfer as if it is selling or transferring the firearm from its inventory to the purchaser . . .”
(b) . . .the licensed dealer shall comply with all requirements of federal and state law that would apply if the licensed dealer were selling or transferring the firearm from its inventory to the purchaser or transferee, including but not limited to conducting a background check on the prospective purchaser or transferee . .  . and complying with the specific requirements and restrictions on semiautomatic assault rifles in this act. 
The last phrase is added by I-1639. 
     In effect, a private transaction is converted into a commercial one by involving a dealer. There is a long list of exceptions; even so, this extension to private transfers presses the limits of Heller’s concessions.

Background checks; waiting periods.
     RCW 9.41.092, as modified by I-1639, provides:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter and except for semiautomatic assault rifles under subsection (2) of this section, a licensed dealer may not deliver any firearm to a purchaser or transferee until the earlier of:
(a) The results of all required background checks are known and the purchaser or transferee (I) is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal or state law and (ii) does not have a voluntary waiver of firearm rights currently in effect; or
(b) Ten business days have elapsed from the date the licensed dealer requested the background check. However, for sales and transfers of pistols if the purchaser or transferee does not have a valid permanent Washington driver's license or state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, then the time period in this subsection shall be extended from ten business days to sixty days.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a licensed dealer may not deliver a semiautomatic assault rifle to a purchaser or transferee until ten business days have elapsed from the date of the purchase application or, in the case of a transfer, ten business days have elapsed from the date a background check is initiated.
The additions by I-1639 are underlined.  It isn’t obvious why, in the case of purchase, the SAR may be delivered ten days after the purchase application, but in the case of a transfer — and for other firearms —  time runs from the background check application.

Semiautomatic assault rifles.
     All references to SARs below were added by the Initiative.  It defines such a weapon as follows: " ‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
     Parsing Heller on this category of weapons is difficult, because the majority opinion is internally inconsistent on whether the Second Amendment covers only weapons in existence in the Seventeenth Century.  I-1639 depends for its survival on the more restrictive interpretation, which is the one the opinion seemed to settle on: “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [United States v.] Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time’.  We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ "  Assault rifles clearly were not in use then and are dangerous, if not, unfortunately, uncommon. 
     That a modern militia would use modern weapons does not change the interpretation: “It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like – may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause [the reference to militias]. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment's ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty.” 
     It could be argued that the Court’s comment is limited to the M-16, and that an SAR is a less  dangerous weapon. That would seem to be a strained interpretation, but, as with much of Heller, who knows what that passage means or may mean in the future?        Several decisions since McDonald have upheld bans on assault rifles.  In Friedman v. Highland Park, 784 F.3d 406 (2015), the plaintiff challenged a city ordinance in Illinois which banned manufacturing, selling or possessing semiautomatic firearms.  The lower courts upheld the ordinance and the Supreme Court declined review.  New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc. v. Cuomo, 804 F.3d 242 (2015), upheld New York and Connecticut laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons.  In Kolbe v. Hogan, 849 F. 3d 114 (2017), the court held that a Maryland ban on assault long guns, i.e., most semi-automatic rifles, is valid, as they are like M-16s.  The Supreme Court declined review.  In a second round of Heller v. District of Columbia , the Court of Appeals upheld a District law banning semi-automatic rifles.  (Judge, now Justice, Kavanaugh dissented in part because those guns differ from M-16s.  He also emphasized their widespread use).
     If SARs may be banned, surely they may be regulated; the Initiative does so.  I-1639 modifies a provision applicable to pistols; the existing text, RCW 9.41.090, is as follows:
In addition to the other requirements of this chapter [RCW 9.41], no dealer may deliver a pistol to the purchaser thereof until:
(a) The purchaser produces a valid concealed pistol license and the dealer has recorded the purchaser's name, license number, and issuing agency . . . .
(b) The dealer is notified in writing by . . . the chief of police or the sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the purchaser resides that the purchaser is eligible to possess a pistol . . . . or
(c) The requirements or time periods in RCW 9.41.092 have been satisfied.
As noted above, RCW 9.41.092 sets the waiting period at ten days in most cases.  That may interfere with the background-check mechanism.  However, there seems to be concern that any waiting period may offend Heller’s version of the Second Amendment.
     The Initiative adds this:  
In addition to the other requirements of this chapter, no dealer may deliver a semiautomatic assault rifle to the purchaser thereof until:
(a) The purchaser provides proof that he or she has completed a recognized firearm safety training program within the last five years that, at a minimum, includes instruction on: (i) Basic firearms safety rules; (ii) Firearms and children, including secure gun storage and talking to children about gun safety; (iii) Firearms and suicide prevention; (iv) Secure gun storage to prevent unauthorized access and use; (v) Safe handling of firearms; and (vi) State and federal firearms laws, including prohibited firearms transfers.
As with pistols, there is a requirement of a background check and a time limit, corresponding to subsections (b) and (c) above, including the reference to RCW 9.41.092. 

Safe storage.
     This is the trickiest issue.     Safe storage of guns in the home often is suggested as way of preventing gun deaths.  Accordingly, I-1639 requires that an application to purchase a firearm contain this clause:
CAUTION: The presence of a firearm in the home has been associated with an increased risk of death to self and others, including an increased risk of suicide, death during domestic violence incidents, and unintentional deaths to children and others.
 That advice is useful but, of course, it may be ignored.  Something to encourage compliance is needed, but disabling a gun from immediate use is the one type of gun-control law specifically addressed by Heller.  It held that “the District's . . . prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense” violates the Second Amendment.   That would preclude safe-storage laws which require gun owners to lock up their guns or provide trigger locks as impediments to immediate use.  However, the drafters of the initiative may have found a way around the problem. 
     They got off to a bad start in the preamble by seeming to mandate safe storage.  The Initiative is described as “AN ACT Relating to increasing public safety by implementing firearm safety measures, including requiring . . . secure gun storage for all firearms. . . .”  Later, it states: “Secure gun storage requirements for all firearms will increase public safety by helping ensure that children and other prohibited persons do not inappropriately gain access to firearms . . .” 
     However, in the operative sections, it takes a different, prudent approach.  Instead of requiring safe storage, the new law creates penalties for allowing a gun to be used in a way that harms another:  “Nothing in this section mandates how or where a firearm must be stored.” However: “A person who stores or leaves a firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a prohibited person may gain access to the firearm . . .[i]s guilty of community endangerment due to unsafe storage of a firearm. . . .”  The degree of the offense depends on the use of the gun; one is guilty in the first degree if the “prohibited person” uses the firearm to cause personal injury or death. 
     There is no offense if: “ The firearm was in secure gun storage, or secured with a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm . . .”   This strongly encourages safe storage — by penalizing its absence if harm results —  without mandating it.  Further, there is no liability, even if the gun was not safely stored, if  the prohibited person “obtains, or obtains and discharges, the firearm in a lawful act of self-defense . . . .”  Together, those exceptions satisfy Heller.  Actually, the second exception is broader than the Heller rule, which referred to self defense “in the home.”  
     Another provision further limits the reach of the law.  The “prohibited person” whose access to the gun may create liability is defined as “a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law.”  It isn’t clear, to me at least, why liability, subject to the stated exceptions, doesn’t extend to any and all who appropriate the original possessor’s firearm.  Perhaps the argument is that a non-prohibited person could have obtained a gun lawfully elsewhere.
    In order to further encourage safe storage, the Initiative provides: “When selling or transferring any firearm, every dealer shall offer to sell or give the purchaser or transferee a secure gun storage device, or a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm.”  In addition, “Every store, shop, or sales outlet where firearms are sold, that is registered as a dealer in firearms with the department of licensing, shall conspicuously post, in a prominent location” a sign stating  (in large type)         Warning: you may face criminal prosecution if you store or leave an unsecured firearm where a person who is prohibited from possessing firearms can and does obtain possession.”  In addition, upon the sale or transfer of a firearm, the dealer shall deliver a copy of that warning.
     Apart from the limited definition of “prohibited person” this seems to be as close as a jurisdiction can come to requiring safe storage without running afoul of the Court’s peculiar views on the Second Amendment. 

Age limits.
     Purchase of pistols and SARs and possession thereof, with exceptions and no little confusion, is limited to those who are at least twenty-one.  As to purchase, the Initiative provides: “A person under twenty-one years of age may not purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle, and except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person may sell or transfer a semiautomatic assault rifle to a person under twenty-one years of age.”(emphasis added)  Why may a pistol be transferred to a young person who may not purchase it?
     The rules regarding possession, are, to say the least, complex with again, a distinction between weapons. 
[A] person at least eighteen years of age, but less than twenty-one years of age, may possess a pistol only: (a) In the person's place of abode; (b) At the person's fixed place of business; or (c) On real property under his or her control. 
That is existing law; the Initiative applies those permissions to SARs and, as to them, adds:
(d) For the specific purpose of (i) moving to a new place of abode; (ii) traveling between the person's place of abode and real property under his or her control; or (iii) selling or transferring the firearm in accordance with the requirements of this chapter; provided that in all of these situations the semiautomatic assault rifle is unloaded and either in secure gun storage or secured with a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm.
The rationale for different rules for pistols and SARs isn’t obvious.
     I-1639 clearly is a step in the right direction, and seems to have finessed Heller on safe storage.  There should be more such efforts. 
     Lawmaking by initiative becomes necessary in the absence of action by the State Legislature, but 1639 illustrates the problem inherent in the initiative process.  It is long, complicated, containing more provisions than I have discussed, and is written in formal legislative style — confusing enough even to those used to it — with many subsections and references to existing law.  The likelihood that anyone who voted for or against fully understood it is minimal.

______________________

63. For simplicity, I have referred to semiautomatic assault rifles as SARs.

64.
The new law takes effect on July 1, 2019, except for the age limitations, which become effective January 1.

65. Heller was extended to the states in McDonald v. Chicago.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018


December 4, 2018
 George H.W. Bush died on Friday.  His passing reminds us that there was a time when a Republican President was a decent man, knowledgeable about and experienced in government, and when the United States was not an object of puzzlement and derision.  His note to Bill Clinton, after losing the 1992 election to him — “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you” — epitomizes his distance from the current incumbent, who can’t stop trashing Hillary. 
 He served his country in many ways.  Sadly, his party has ceased to serve — or, at times, even recognize — the country’s interests.  Its  support for the buffoon who is degrading the office Bush held is not entirely surprising, as the degenerate condition of the Republican Party made a Trump presidency possible. 
 A number of conservative commentators have rebelled against Trump and what the Party has become.  One is Jennifer Rubin, the prolific columnist for The Washington Post:
Trump’s performance also revealed the degree to which the right has become intellectually corrupt but also bereft of anything resembling traditional values or simple decency. . . . In sum, Trump represents a party that now embraces (or is resigned to) intellectual rot and moral nihilism.[60]
Again: “After one has tried for a decent interval to admonish and reform the GOP, isn’t the only course, if one wishes to preserve one’s own sense of decency and honor, to resign from and disassociate oneself from the GOP?”[61]
Another new critic is Max Boot, who has, indeed, abandoned the Republican Party, which he  describes as having fallen into the hands of “neocons.”  He redefines that term as “neo-Confederates:”
It is hard to remember that Republicans were once the Party of Lincoln. . . . [L]eaders such as George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney had been trying to appeal to minority and moderate voters. But with his pandering to white grievances, Trump has abetted the rise of the neo-Confederates.[62]
Perhaps some day Trump will go so far down the road to inept authoritarianism, or his misdeeds will become so obvious, that Republicans in Congress will desert him and move in a new direction.  A slightly positive sign is the preliminary vote in the Senate to withdraw support for Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemen, partly a reaction to Trump’s support of the Crown Prince even after the Khashoggi murder.
President Bush said in his speech accepting the nomination in 1988, “I want a kinder and gentler nation.”  In his inaugural address, Bush spoke of “a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good.” Trump mocked both expressions, a perfect reflection of the distance between the two occupants of the Oval Office, and the distance the presidency, the GOP and the country have fallen.

_______________________

60.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/10/17/trumprevels-in-his-ignorance-and-reveals-his-cowardice/?utm_term=.277cf6b551dd

61.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/12/03/bush-41-resigned-from-the-nra-shouldnt-decent-americans-quit-the-gop/?utm_term=.f34ee75e66f3&wpisrc=nl_popns& wpmm=1

62.
 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-gop-is-now-the-party-of-neo-confederates/2018/11/25/d5d9dd88-f109-11e8-bc79-68604ed88993_story.html?utm_term= .5d5f72fe4aa2


Saturday, November 10, 2018


November 9, 2018
Bob Woodward’s latest book, Fear, essentially is a history of the late stages of the Trump campaign and the first year or so of his administration.  It is packed with quotes, suggesting considerable access to the players, but its narrative is so unstructured that, as I read it, it seemed not to have any overriding theme.  However, the author had suggested two. 
One, set forth in the Prologue, is this: “The . . . United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader.  Members of the staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”[56]  The story supports that summary; among other protective acts, aides surreptitiously removed papers from Trump’s desk to prevent his signing them.  I suppose that I didn’t recognize that as a significant thread because the portraits of Trump, and to some degree of the chaos in the White House, were familiar. 
The other theme, reflected in the title, appears on another introductory page.  It is a comment by Trump in an interview with the author in March, 2016: “Real power is — I don’t even want to use the word — fear.”[57]  No context is given.
Possibly Trump avoids the phrase, but the author did not.  In a passage referring to “private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women,”  Trump is quoted:  “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. . . .  You showed weakness, You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to deny anything that’s said about you.”[58]3  Woodward prefaced that quote with this anticipatory restatement: “Real power is fear. It’s all about strength.  Never show weakness. You’ve always got to be strong. Don’t be bullied.” Presumably he was summarizing Trump’s attitude, but the reference to fear doesn’t fit.  The quote is clear enough; the gloss wasn’t necessary, except to fit the story into the second theme.
That passage is part of a short, separate section which begins with a discussion of the relationship between Trump and his wife, and which is sandwiched between discussions of the Mueller investigation and tariffs.  That is typical of the episodic nature of the narrative.
Mr. Woodward inserted “Real power is fear” at two later points, one referring to Trump’s  threats, in business deals, to walk away, but applying it to NAFTA negotiations, the other concerning relations with North Korea.[59]  As with the reference to fear above, these are the author’s comments, not statements by Trump.  Again, they don’t quite fit the context, so they seemed to me to be an overreach. 
However, Trump’s behavior during the runup to the midterms demonstrates that Fear is Power indeed is his guiding motto.  Facing a possible blue wave, he resorted to fearmongering about immigrants, hoping to frighten undecided voters into opting for safety. 
In the process, he may have convinced the faithful that his bluster is a mark of strength, but the Trump quote in the “private advice” passage reveals that he is a weak man trying to look strong.  Although on television he could shout “you’re fired,” he often cannot fire real people face to face. He scatters insults constantly, but whines about ill-treatment if criticized.   
Rather than making America great again, in his meeting with Putin Trump was weak and made the country look weak.  Most recently he has done both by appearing to be so frightened of a distant caravan of refugees that the Army must be called out.
Fear is an appropriate title in another way.  From the beginning, Trump has been afraid of disclosure.   That has become worse with the election of a Democratic House.  Firing Jeff Sessions and replacing him with an apparently more pliable acting AG is a result of Trump’s fear of the Mueller investigation.  Probably there will be more such signs.

_____________________
<br>56. p. xxii

57. p. xiii per the index, actually unnumbered

58. p. 175

59.
pp.274-75, 300


Sunday, October 28, 2018


October 27, 2018
There is a long tradition of  endorsement of candidates by newspapers; The Seattle  Times is no exception.  It is, perhaps, a bit more smug about its wisdom in such matters than some. The Times editorial page advised us on October 21 that it is time to vote, and “The editorial board is here to help.”  The implication is that the board sees political issues more clearly than most voters.  One of the endorsements puts that in doubt: the choice of Dino Rossi, Republican, over Kim Schrier, Democrat, for Congress in the Eighth District.
This is not an ordinary election; the country is in danger from an incompetent, unstable President, who is aided and abetted by the Republican Congress.  The Times is not entirely unaware of the problem. “We have frequently expressed grave concerns in editorials about President Donald Trump’s divisiveness and policies on everything from immigration to tariffs to environmental rollbacks.”  That’s too mild a critique, but it shows some perception.  However, the board then negated its insight: “But Congress needs more people like Rossi, a pragmatic lawmaker with a demonstrated record of working across the aisle with Democrats for solutions that work for the greater good.” 
Even assuming the description of Rossi’s record to be accurate, their choice makes no sense.  What is needed is a Democratic House which will exercise some control over the resentful, vindictive adolescent in the White House.  The editorial board is dimly aware of that as well — “Schrier embodies the national effort to take back Congress from the Republicans as a check on the president” —  but isn’t able to see the logic in that position.
In defending its choice, the Times resorts to the everyone’s-to-blame excuse: “Yes, Trump needs to be checked. But the fighting and the divisiveness has led to a hopelessly dysfunctional Congress, where people fight over issues, not push for solutions.”  It takes a remarkable level of self-deception to suggest that resisting bad policies is divisiveness, that issues don’t matter, that somehow the GOP Congress would be reasonable if only asked nicely, that voting for a Republican is going to lead to checking Trump.
Voting a straight— Democratic — ticket may seem unsophisticated, but this is a year when it is the only responsible choice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


October 23, 2018
     The Kavanaugh hearings provided another illustration, as if one were needed, of the  fact that one-party, authoritarian rule need not be conducted by smart, clever people.  The hearings demonstrated Kavanaugh’s emotional unfitness and political bias and raised serious questions about prior behavior, but lost him no Republican votes.  The FBI investigation was a farce, too brief to be helpful; many records regarding his government service were withheld.   He was going to be confirmed no matter how bad he or the process looked.  None of that took much intelligence.
     Senator Grassley, in complaining that not everyone agreed with the Party’s choice, revealed that he isn’t altogether sure what is meant by the expression “the fix is in.”  Referring to Democrats’ opposition to Kavanaugh, he  declared that “the fix was in from the beginning.” Apparently he meant that their opposition had formed early.  Resisting a nomination hardly is “fixing” it. 
     However, the restructuring of the Court was, indeed, fixed.  Republicans were determined to have a reactionary Justice; to that end they refused to consider Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, and rushed to confirm Kavanaugh.  The fix definitely was in, and confused rhetoric by one of the fixers won’t change that.  Semantic diversion wasn’t the most notable aspect of the performance by Senate Republicans regarding the nomination.  Consider the hypocrisy.  After declining even to hold hearings on Merrick Garland in 2016, and after serious questions were raised regarding Kavanaugh’s suitability, they pretended shock at the opposition by Democrats and women’s groups, accusing the latter of being paid performers.  They even had the wimpish gall to complain of being harassed.
     Donald Trump, the leader of a Party increasingly trending in the direction of authoritarianism is, to put it kindly, not very intelligent.  In more normal times, that would be a disadvantage.  Nor so now.  “In the right-wing bubble, where ignorance in service of tribalism is no sin, Trump faces no ridicule or serious opposition.”[55]1 
     The tendency of Republicans to stretch the truth in aid of their agenda is based on the assumption that the voters are ignorant.  That explains Mitch McConnell’s claim that the cure for the budget deficit is “entitlement reform, and we’re talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid;” he assumes that no one will remember the massive tax cut. 
     That tendency is exacerbated by the example of their leader.  Trump has left behind mere disregard for facts, such as evidence of human sources of global warming.  Recently he’s gone into all-out fantasy mode, accusing Democrats of planning to give cars to illegal immigrants, claiming that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” have joined the refugee caravan in Mexico, and citing non-existent riots in sanctuary cities.
     Trump clearly has neither shame nor any principle other than self-aggrandizement.  It’s sad, to say nothing of dangerous, that a grand old party has adopted the same character.  
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55. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/10/17/trump-revels-in-his- ignorance-and-reveals-his-cowardice/?utm_term=.277cf6b551dd