A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Although I consider President Joe Biden to have done an exceptional job during the first two years of his term, I would submit that neither the policies of the Democrats nor of the Republicans received a mandate in this last election season; it was Americans’ belief in democracy that won.  Right now, let us savor it with proclamations by our greatest real and fictional presidents.

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

… I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in the month of November … as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.  And I recommend to them that, while offering up ascriptions justly due Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become … sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln

 

The West Wing – “I Get to Proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving” – YouTube

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Election Reflections

“I would be thrilled to be proven overly-pessimistic, and recognize that Democrats may still maintain control of the Senate, but inflation currently appears to be the Death Star through which the Empire will strike back.”

  • McCoy’s Noise, November 2, 2022 

Although I didn’t actually rule out the possibility that Democrats would hold the Senate, I am indeed thrilled to find myself guilty of having had too little faith in the American majority’s appreciation of the MAGA danger to democracy 🙂 .  As the results have rolled out in the days following the election, a few disparate reflections:

The most important and heartening first:  voters’ nationwide general – not total, but general – rejection of 2020 election deniers.  If we are going to rebuild faith in our democracy and reverse the distrust in our election systems and workers despicably sown in so many of our people by former President Donald Trump, this was a necessary first step.  Part of Democrats’ better-than-expected showing was seemingly Mr. Trump’s aggressive reentry into the campaign during its last month, and the galvanizing counter-effect it had not only on progressives and liberals but independents and moderates.  More – there is always more — on Mr. Trump below. 

Notwithstanding the delight [or relief  😉 ] felt by those of us encouraged by the recent results, at the time this is typed it seems highly likely that MAGA-infected Republicans will control the House of Representatives.  (The numbers aren’t finalized yet, but it appears Republicans may command a House majority at least in part because of aggressive Florida gerrymandering effected by Republican FL Gov. Ron DeSantis, while a similar Democratic gerrymandering effort in New York was struck down by that state’s highest court.  While on principle I’m glad that the Democrats’ New York effort was overturned, it’s infuriating that rabidly-partisan Republican gerrymandering in states like Wisconsin and Florida have been allowed to stand.)  While the GOP’s subpar performance may – but only may – dampen its appetite for the most excessive partisan mischief such as impeaching President Joe Biden, investigating Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, cutting Social Security and Medicare, or passing a nationwide abortion ban, the House seems overwhelmingly likely to seek to restrict funding for Ukraine’s defense and play politics with the debt ceiling – i.e., with the full faith and credit of the United States. 

Many will recall that in a lame duck session following WI Gov. Tony Evers’ defeat of then-WI Gov. Scott Walker, the MAGA-infected Wisconsin State Legislature passed a series of laws hobbling Mr. Evers’ ability to undo some of Mr. Walker’s programs and policies.  Given the paralysis and partisan histrionics that seem overwhelmingly likely to ensue when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, I would hope that for the good of the nation, during the upcoming lame duck Congressional session Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (due to the power of the filibuster) can agree to pass measures that have received or could garner bipartisan support to blunt some of the most destructive future MAGA impulses.  (Any bills passed by the next Congress to repeal such bipartisan enactments will succumb to President Joe Biden’s veto.)  Below is a short list of such potential measures.  There are undoubtedly others that I have overlooked.

  1. Raising the federal debt limit to an amount projected to carry the United States through to April 1, 2025.  Our citizenry will really decide the future direction it wishes the nation to take based upon whom it elects president in 2024.  In the meantime, the full faith and credit of the United States should not be held hostage to partisan rabble.
  • Authorizing the President, under his Constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief, to reallocate such amounts of the United States’ military budget to support NATO’s effort against Russian military aggression as he deems fit and proper, provided that the president cannot disproportionately reduce defense expenditures in any state.
  • Revising the Electoral Count Act.  The House has already passed revisions; the Senate has reported revisions out of committee with bipartisan support.
  • Providing those qualifying under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) a path to U.S. citizenship. 
  • Enacting the Afghan Adjustment Act to assure that those Afghans who were brought to safety by the U.S. military may apply for protection to stay in the U.S. long-term.

I concede that given the strongly-worded criticisms of Mr. McConnell I have lodged in these pages over the years, even I find it surprising that I sincerely hope that Senate Republicans name Mr. McConnell their leader to ensure that some level of sanity continues in the Senate. 

I was obviously elated by Mr. Evers’ 3-point victory over Trump-endorsed Republican Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels.  Mr. Evers’ re-election reduces the risk to the integrity of Wisconsin’s 2024 electoral process and enables at least somewhat balanced administration of my state’s government.  Some close friends have indicated to me that they attribute the 1-point loss of Democratic U.S. Senate Nominee WI Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, an African American, to U.S. WI Sen. Ron Johnson primarily to racism.  While those notions undoubtedly contain some truth, I recall another black candidate, former President Barack Obama, who won here handily twice – the latter time with a Wisconsinite on the opposing ticket.  In a close race, there are many factors at play.  I consider Mr. Barnes’ demonstrable inclinations on police funding and immigration enforcement, despite his campaign protestations, to have been a genuine political liability in Wisconsin’s polarized political environment.  I will always suspect, given the narrowness of Mr. Barnes’ defeat, that as the Democratic Senate nominee, WI Treasurer Sarah Godlewski might have squeaked past Mr. Johnson.  ‘Nuff said; it is what it is.

Two final notes on Mr. Trump:

I consider his recent declaration of his candidacy for the 2024 Republican Party’s presidential nomination, while presenting a fascist threat to the country and being politically bad for the Republican Party, clearly the smart move for him personally, which is all that he has ever cared about.  More on that as we move into the parties’ respective 2024 political machinations.

The most delicious last:  of all of the Trump acolytes running in this past cycle, I considered Republican AZ Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake the most dangerous.  She was the Trump acolyte that some pundits have opined had captured Mr. Trump’s personal affection and mantle – his spiritual heir, with much of his charismatic appeal – the one in whom he placed the most store.  Like Mr. Trump before her, during her campaign Ms. Lake sharply criticized the late U.S. AZ Sen. John McCain.  At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) shortly after she won her party’s gubernatorial primary, she declared, “We drove a stake through the heart of the McCain machine.”  At a rally shortly before the election, she referred to Mr. McCain as a “loser” and told “McCain Republicans” “to get the hell out” of the gathering. 

As all are aware, Mr. Trump lost Arizona to President Joe Biden in 2020 by three-tenths of one point.  As all who care are aware, analysts have recently projected Ms. Lake the loser to Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate and AZ Secretary of State Katie Hobbs by less than one percent.  I hadn’t yet seen anyone else make this point when it occurred to me:  After an oft-recounted courageous military career, Mr. McCain was easily elected to the U.S. Senate by Arizonans six times beginning in 1986.  He died in 2018.  His service to his country still wasn’t completed.  He has since in effect beaten Donald Trump in Arizona.  Twice.  From the grave.

Requiescat in pace, sir.  Unless we need you again in 2024.

Is Brazil’s Allegiance to Democracy Stronger than Ours?

As many that read these pages are aware, we have family members based in Brazil.  We have visited the nation twice over the last several years and taken a particular interest in its affairs.  The country dominates South America, ranking 7th in the world in population and possessing the globe’s 12th largest economy.  The Brazilians are a warm, sensual, creative people and their land is both bountiful and beautiful.  Like the United States, Brazil was first claimed a colony by a European power – in its case, Portugal (making it the only South American nation whose native language is Portuguese rather than Spanish) – and, like the United States, has a history marred by African slavery.  Unlike the United States, its democratic roots are surprisingly short.  After being governed through the centuries by monarchy or military dictatorship with sporadic stabs at democracy, Brazil’s true democratic system of government only took hold in the 1970s.

Current rightist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was elected in 2018, in the aftermath of corruption scandals which engulfed then-President Dilma Rousseff.  Mr. Bolsonaro has been called “the Trump of the Tropics.”  His COVID denials and their devastating effect on his people, combined with his policies facilitating deforestation (he would call it, “development”) of the Amazon jungle so crucial to combat Climate Change, have caused Americans to take greater note of Brazilian issues and politics than would otherwise have been the case.  His effective use of social media was core to his election victory, and thereafter pivotal in building an even deeper loyalty among his followers after he took office.  He has consistently maintained a flagrant disdain for those who oppose him, engendering an antipathy in his adversaries corresponding to the allegiance of his adherents.

Perhaps because of the relatively short tenure of true democracy in Brazil, the merits of the system are a subject of genuine debate among Brazilians.  When we visited this past summer, a Rio de Janeiro paper reported upon a poll indicating that a solid – but not overwhelming – majority of citizens favored democracy over autocracy, while at the same time a similarly-sized majority believed that the country would run more efficiently under autocracy than it did under democracy.  

As all who care are aware, Brazil has just emerged from a bitterly-partisan presidential election in which Mr. Bolsonaro was defeated by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by a margin of slightly less than 2% of 120 million votes cast.  Mr. Bolsonaro, who before the election consistently criticized the Brazilian electronic voting system that impartial experts find above material reproach, declared in August that he would only accept the outcome of his contest against Mr. da Silva if the vote was “clean and transparent,” and that he saw only three alternatives for his future:  “being arrested, killed or victory.”

Earlier this week, almost two days after Brazilian election officials announced Mr. da Silva’s victory, Mr. Bolsonaro (through an aide) acknowledged his defeat and indicated that he would facilitate the transition to Mr. da Silva.  Despite this acknowledgement, unrest currently continues among Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters.

There was no notion of this post on the docket.  I was prompted to enter it by a November 2nd Wall Street Journal report of Mr. Bolsonaro’s concession:  “… [E]nding a tense silence of 45 hours in which he had refused to acknowledge the results even as his allies urged him to do so. … On Tuesday, the governor of São Paulo state … became one of the latest to call for the president to concede.  ‘The elections are over, we live in a democracy,’ he told reporters. … Mr. Bolsonaro’s [de facto concession] came as politicians called on him to acknowledge the outcome to help tame protests … [Emphasis Added].”

One can reasonably surmise that during the “tense … 45 hours” described by the Journal, Mr. Bolsonaro and his sons (his closest aides) were soliciting the assistance of military and political allies across Brazil to contest Mr. da Silva’s electoral victory.  If such was indeed the case, it is clear that not enough of these followers were willing to engage in an attempt to overturn what they knew was a valid election result to keep Mr. Bolsonaro in power.  I suspect that Mr. Bolsonaro conceded not because he wanted to, but because he had no choice.      

The Journal report made me reflect what might have been here, in 2020.  The vote totals of the state presidential races considered too close to call on Election Night were announced within a week after the election, a determinative number in favor President Joe Biden.  It’s all good – and indeed, vital to our system of government – to respect the legal process; even I initially nodded at Republican bromides asserting that Mr. Trump had the right to contest his defeats in court.  That said, professional politicians know their states.  Republican former WI Gov. Scott Walker, both the most savvy and virulently-partisan Wisconsin politician of his generation, made clear via tweet within hours after Wisconsin results were announced – before he or others grasped that then-President Donald Trump would simply choose to disregard facts in his quest to retain power — that although the contest was close, Mr. Biden had won Wisconsin.  Most if not all of the Republican party leaders and officials in each of the states narrowly won by Mr. Biden undoubtedly understood early on that that Mr. Trump’s challenges would have no appreciable effect on the election’s outcome.  They didn’t need to wait for their states’ respective formal election certifications or Congress’ January 6th formal counting of the Electoral College votes to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory.  Had they and right-wing propagandists such as Fox News done what Mr. Bolsonaro’s political allies have done – as soon as the result was objectively clear even if avenues for futile legal challenges remained, called in chorus upon Mr. Trump to concede and gracefully lay the ground for his opponent’s succession – it seems, at least to me, that despite his inevitable subsequent thrashing, Mr. Trump would have been politically hobbled, surrounded by a small cabal insufficient to sow the level of cancerous doubt and seditious impulse which we now confront.

But they didn’t have the … guts.  (You know that wasn’t the word I was thinking as I typed this, or you were thinking as you read it.)  Despite over two centuries of American experience, they didn’t have the love and respect for democracy shown by officials in a South American nation with scant experience in true self-government.

Brazilians have a wry saying about their country: “Brazil is the future, and it always will be.”  Maybe so; but right now, the future of its democracy seems brighter than ours.

America Ascendant

It is hard not to be taken up with the difficulties confronting us.  They are generally and regularly addressed in these pages and they obviously will be again.  At the same time, America still has more going for it than any other nation on earth.

One need only travel out of the country as we have over the last decade to appreciate that the vast majority of Americans live in better circumstances than a significant majority of the rest of the world’s population.  Visit Asia, the Caribbean, South America, Africa; get away from the nice sections of their cities and plush tourist enclaves, and see how much better the vast majority of Americans have it than most of those with whom we share the globe. 

Unemployment is low and the dollar is strong.  Inflation is high, and without doubt providing serious immediate hardship to our financially-constrained citizens, but some experts now opine that price pressures may be at the cusp of a decline.  More importantly, if a stable relatively-higher inflation rate results from a concerted effort to replenish the domestic capabilities we’ve allowed to wither over the past 30 years in homage to the Great Corporate God, Lower Cost, such would arguably lead to better employment opportunities for some currently-challenged segments of our people and is a price we should be willing to pay to reduce our global supply chain vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic.  We have the intellectual and financial capital to get this done.  No one else in the world does.

Our immigration policy and practices are obviously currently in shambles — primarily due to Republican grandstanding but also contributed to by Democrats – and we need more effective border controls.  That said, the crush at our southern border exists because – as has been true for centuries of immigrants coming from our east and west – people from other lands understand that this nation offers them and their loved ones the best opportunity for a free, better life.  It remains within our grasp to restore the healthy mix of immigrants that has always been our lifeblood.  Few if any other nations have this opportunity.

Watching the stock market retreat can be disconcerting, but using the Dow Jones Index as the indicator, the lowest point of the recent slide brought us to levels about on a par with late February, 2020, when Donald Trump was wishing away COVID because he didn’t want to alarm the high-flying stock market.  The market could fall roughly another 20% from there (to about 23,000) and be at a level not seen since the prehistoric days of … January, 2019.  Were those in the market feeling poor that day?  Ironically, equity values have fluctuated because economic indicators look strong, which the market realizes will cause the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates to battle inflation.  Investors are moving from stocks to bonds because the latter are starting to generate appreciable returns.  Being (as all are acutely aware) no financier, I nevertheless timidly venture that at a macro level, having liquid assets divided more evenly between stocks and bonds is a good thing.  Did anybody think that the market was always going to go up?

We’ve beaten the pandemic.  It was at great cost; over 1 million American lives lost – many, in my view, due to the self-absorption of Donald Trump.  At the same time, through the efforts of the scientific community and the Trump and Biden Administrations, we developed and distributed incredibly effective vaccines in an incredibly short time that got us back on our feet.  We will lose more Americans this winter, but it seems likely that most of these will sadly be lost due to their own misguided decisions.

America’s stature on the world stage hasn’t been as high as it is now since at least before the 2003 Iraq invasion.  While our standing has risen largely due to Russia’s barbaric and blundering invasion of Ukraine, and no one could have predicted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would prove to be a Winston Churchill-like wartime leader, the NATO unity and effective support of Ukraine we’ve seen over the last eight months was anything but certain when the invasion began.  The allied success is a direct result of President Joe Biden’s incredibly skillful marshalling of NATO and deft management of American domestic sentiment.  Russia’s recent sham annexation of Ukrainian regions has been overwhelmingly condemned in the United Nations; China, Russia’s most significant ally, is clearly less than pleased.  The Russian nation will be a crippled pariah as long as Vladimir Putin remains its President.  (More on nuclear weapons below.)

China is also currently off its stride, which clearly augments our global position.  Chinese President Xi Jinping’s own ambition and impatience have significantly slowed and perhaps thwarted his aspirations for “The China Dream.”  Some China experts are opining that Mr. Xi’s recent seizing of a third term as President has sown dissention within China’s hierarchy.  Mr. Xi’s decision to spurn western-developed COVID vaccines for less effective Chinese vaccines and his enforcement of aggressive COVID lockdowns have not only hindered his economy but caused unrest among his people.  His human rights record — the de facto renunciation of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy with Hong Kong with attendant suppression of protestors; the bellicose comments about Taiwan; the regime’s concentration-camp treatment of Uighurs — has created deep reservations within the democracies about closer relations with China.  His buildup of Chinese armed forces and attempt to usurp and militarize the South China Sea have disconcerted both China’s Pacific friends and adversaries, causing some to welcome a greater American presence.  Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road initiative – i.e., a concerted effort to curry favor among poorer nations by providing them loans for their infrastructure projects — has saddled China with bad loans while its punitive collection methods on early arrangements have created reluctance to participate in other prospective applicants.  China’s economy is unquestionably slowing; Mr. Xi’s subordination of his predecessors’ freer-market policies to political orthodoxy and imposition of tighter government control over the nation’s economy have cooled global investors’ enthusiasm about China, accordingly strengthening America’s position as the dominant global economy and currency. 

We live, as we have for over 70 years, under threat of nuclear holocaust.  While we certainly cannot discount the possibility of an exchange between squabbling minor nuclear players (if there is such a thing) such as India and Pakistan, I would submit that we retain the same robust objective and psychological defense against a direct attack on us or our allies that we’ve had throughout the nuclear age:  Mutually-Assured Destruction (with the fitting acronym, “MAD”).  As long as the leader of a nuclear power – even one as stressed as Mr. Putin is at present – truly believes that launching a nuclear attack against us or our allies will elicit a nuclear response, I don’t believe s/he will do it.  The media focuses regularly on North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.  I would assert that Mr. Kim’s posturing is strategically defensive (to protect himself against the U.S. and China) rather than offensive.  He undoubtedly realizes that the one sure thing that will happen if he launches a nuclear strike is that he himself will die.  (If our counterstrike doesn’t get him, the Chinese will.)  While an impending nuclear Iran is obviously of concern, I would submit that the conservative Shia Islam the regime imposes at home casts a patina of theocratic zealotry over its foreign policy aims, which I see as plain-old territorial:  to dominate the Middle East.  I would suggest that similar to Mr. Kim, its leaders must recognize that providing nuclear provocation to either the United States or Israel, no matter how it goes for us, won’t end well for them.  There is, obviously, a key caveat to this:  the world must believe that the President of the United States will respond if either the U.S. or its allies are attacked.  Save Mr. Trump, we’ve had such a President throughout the nuclear age; our safety in this quarter depends on such continuing.

Climate Change threatens us all.  There are those in America who still question its severity but few if any still doubt its existence.  Many of the nations that are now and soon will be suffering the greatest environmental hardship did little to cause the danger and have no ability to meaningfully address it.  The United States cannot fix the problem alone, but we are among the fortunate few nations that have it within our power to make changes, and to encourage others to make changes, to meaningfully reduce its impact.  Perhaps more importantly, at this stage American ingenuity is the most likely vehicle we have to develop new scientific approaches to clean up the mess that we have played such a large part – for decades, clearly unwittingly — in creating.

Despite all of these advantages, I recognize that we are holding elections next month in which it seems likely that the Republican Party – now completely dominated by MAGA fascists and fools and the cowards that bow before them — will gain control of at least one, and perhaps both, houses of Congress.  There is nothing here to cheer those that consider America the “beacon of freedom” described by President Ronald Reagan.  However, no matter the Congressional political complexion as of January, 2023, a good man remains President.  He will be able to defend if not extend what I consider to be an impressive array of achievements over the last two years (an assessment worthy of a separate post).  More importantly from a strategic political standpoint, MAGAs seem poised to overplay their hand in the House of Representatives.  They will dance to Donald Trump’s tune.  They give rein to the excesses of the likes of U.S. FL Rep. Matt Gaetz, U.S. GA Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, and U.S. CO Rep. Lauren Boebert.  They will at least try to impeach Mr. Biden and current House Speaker U.S. CA Rep. Nancy Pelosi.  They will hound Hunter Biden.  They will attempt to hold America’s debt ceiling hostage.  They will seek to cut funding to Ukraine.  They will vote to repeal or restrict the Affordable Care Act.  They will propose major changes to Social Security and Medicare.  Almost certainly, they will pass a bill imposing severe national limitations on abortion.  Their legislative efforts will either die in the Senate (even if Republicans control that chamber) or will be vetoed by President Biden.  I believe that what these forays will do – because I believe that the majority of Americans value genuine democracy and hold America to be a well-meaning nation – will cause a backlash against MAGA excesses that will make it easier for the 2024 Democratic Presidential nominee to win the presidency (if the electoral process is fair) than will be the case if Democrats continue to control Congress.  Our experience since President Franklin Roosevelt – brought into the starkest relief by Donald Trump – has shown us that our democracy ultimately depends not on Congress but upon who sits in the White House.

Through the wisdom, industry and perseverance of our forebears and our land’s natural bounty, no other nation on earth has the advantages and opportunities we do today.  Which means:  It’s up to us to keep faith, and to uphold the promise of America.  Stay well.

Observations About Immigrants and Immigration

Last night this came up on my Twitter feed, and I feel it appropriate to record it in these pages. In recent years, I’ve had the privilege to visit with recent immigrants to the United States from many nations and with citizens of distant lands. Despite all of the rancor and discord about immigration that has arisen in our public discourse over the last score of years, those from outside our country still invariably see America as the “beacon of freedom and opportunity” President Reagan referred to in his remarks, and they feel what he described as the “magical, intoxicating power of America.” While there are many aspects of our immigration policy that require attention, we need to cherish and nurture such a priceless mantle.

End of Summer Reflections

Due to traveling and other life pursuits, in the last several months I’ve had as little time to devote to these pages as at any point since they were launched [most probably a relief to those happy for a respite from long-winded Noise  😉 ].  As life is returning to a more normal routine for us, a few reflections as summer ends:

As you may be aware, the legal status in our country for many Afghans whom we evacuated in August 2021 – Afghans who aided our war effort, and whom we evacuated because of the severe retribution they would have faced from the Taliban if we left them behind – is not yet secure.  The Afghan Adjustment Act is a bipartisan bill (sponsored in the Senate by U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar and, of all people, U.S. SC Sen Lindsay Graham) that would, if passed, ensure that those Afghans who were brought to safety by the U.S. military may apply for lasting protection to stay in the U.S. long-term.  The bill is reportedly modeled after laws previously enacted to protect people from Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iraq.  Seemingly noncontroversial, the New York Times reported on September 22 that the bill has hit “snags” due to Republican objections that the people we evacuated were insufficiently vetted prior to withdrawal.  The Times quoted former Trump Administration official Stephen Miller (that’s a surprise) and U.S. IA Sen. Charles (“I was there when we nominated Abe Lincoln for President”) Grassley among those voicing objections for these predominately-Muslim evacuees.  Although this bill has the feel of one that will be passed in the lame duck session following the November elections, I will take the liberty of suggesting that in the near term you might encourage your Senators and Representative to vote for the legislation if they haven’t already indicated their support.

These pages’ last substantive observations regarding the Ukrainian conflict were published on April 22 – an amazing interval to this old retired blogger who professes a particular interest in foreign policy.  At that time, I offered that a primary challenge facing Mr. Biden related to the crisis was … time.  Since that note was posted – and while the world cannot forget the millions of Ukrainian lives forfeited or forever marred by the global ambitions of one man — the conflict has gone, from geopolitically-strategic and military perspectives, immeasurably better for Ukraine than the West could have then reasonably expected and devastatingly worse for Russia than Russian President Vladimir Putin could have then anticipated.  I agree with those that say that Mr. Putin’s recent mobilization of Russian reserves, orchestration of sham referenda in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories as a preface to their Russian annexation, and threatening allusions to Russia’s nuclear weaponry are indications of his desperation, and also with those that have opined that NATO forces should actively enter the conflict in aid of the Ukrainian army if he does deploy nuclear weaponry (I might go so far to include his use of chemical weaponry as sufficient provocation).  I most strongly disagree with those favoring negotiation with Russia at this point.  If one could now concoct some internationally-engineered settlement of the conflict, do you believe that Mr. Putin would thereafter cease in his attempts to disrupt democracy in Ukraine, the NATO nations that were once part of the USSR, the Nordic nations, western Europe, and the U.S.?  To ask the question is to answer it.  What, then, is the value in negotiating with Mr. Putin when he is at his weakest point? 

That said, I still fear that time is the Russian President’s ally.  I have quoted Fiona Hill’s and Clifford G. Gaddy’s study, Mr. Putin, extensively in these pages; the gist of their analysis is that once Mr. Putin commits to a fight, “he is prepared to fight to the end”; and “he will fight dirty if that’s what it takes to win.”  Without meaning to be facetious, The Godfather provides guidance here:  when the enemy seems the most disadvantaged, triple your precautions.  If advising Mr. Biden, I would ask whether we still have any measure available to materially press the West’s advantage that Mr. Putin might not be anticipating.  If so – short of nuclear weaponry – we should spring it now.  The only way this war ends is if Mr. Putin is deposed from the inside.  A protracted conflict, given an impending cold European winter without Russian-supplied energy and a global economic recession, will be more likely to adversely affect Western resolve than impact upon Mr. Putin’s designs.

In the short run, the Green Bay Packer offense may be able to get by on the strength of its running game complemented by sufficient production from its experienced (but physically limited) wide receivers.  In the long run, the Packers have no realistic Super Bowl prospects unless at least one of its rookie wide receivers blossoms.  I’m intrigued by Romeo Doubs.  Mr. Doubs certainly contributed to yesterday’s narrow win, but seemed to me to somewhat disappear in the second half; what I couldn’t tell was whether that was a result of an altered Tampa Bay defensive scheme or due to Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ well-known penchant for relying on veterans in tight situations.

President Joe Biden’s recent assertion that the COVID pandemic “is over” has been assailed as making it more difficult for public health authorities to combat a disease that is still taking hundreds of American lives a day (although the President did qualify his comment at the time with the indication that COVID remained “a problem”).  We can never forget the millions of lives lost to the disease worldwide, including the one million American lives lost (some significant percentage of the latter and of those we lose in the future, I would venture, being the fault of former President Donald Trump).  Even so, I would submit that the President is right in the larger sense.  We just got back from a trip across the globe.  We saw few masks.  As a retiree, I am now rarely out in morning rush hour on the route I took to work for decades; last week I was; it was the first time since March, 2020, that the volume and pace of traffic at that hour was virtually what it had been before the COVID shutdown.  As I’ve previously suggested here, the shutdown affected different dispositions differently:  some were sorely impacted by the sudden and enforced isolation; others who adjusted more readily to the solitude have perhaps needed more time to acclimate to pre-pandemic levels of social interaction.  I sense an awakening coming at a time of year that, at least in the Midwest, one customarily starts to hunker down.  That said:  Medicare authorities advised last week that updated COVID vaccines are available for increased protection against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants to any Medicare recipient receiving his/her last vaccination/booster earlier than July 22.  That includes TLOML and me.  We intend to get the new booster.  I suggest that if you’re eligible, you should do so as well.

On Biden Administration Student Loan Forgiveness

As all who care are aware, President Joe Biden announced on August 24th that his Administration was canceling $10,000 in student loan debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year, and another $10,000 in such debt for those who had received Pell grants for low-income students.

In a post in May of 2021, I noted that one could sympathize both with those seeking relief from crippling higher education debt and with the millions of others who have either paid off or are paying off their loans and accordingly might resent any loan forgiveness measure then being urged by some Democrats.  Because the mountain of outstanding student debt was what I termed in that note, “a millstone around the neck of our future economic growth,” I ventured at that time that forgiving much if not all of such debt seemed a means to spur long-term economic growth that would benefit both those whose loans were forgiven and those who paid off their loans.  Although the high levels of inflation we are now experiencing didn’t occur to me – an oversight, given our last 40 years’ experience, that might be excused – I failed to take into account that such a debt-forgiveness measure would do nothing to curb rising college education costs or, more importantly, at least theoretically (since neither party’s officeholders seem to care any longer about our burgeoning national debt) add notably to the federal debt borne by all taxpayers, including those who perhaps for financial reasons didn’t go to college or managed to avoid incurring college loan debt.

What follows is the verbatim text of an email I received from a close friend – one sympathetic to the Biden Administration – the day after the decision was announced.  He termed it a “Rant.”  I received his permission to publish his email here.  Having considered the issue from more angles than I did last year, I associate myself with his remarks  😉 . 

“I think the student loan forgiveness policy is an awful decision.  $600-800B deficit spending with no revenue offsets.  Questionable legal authority tied to “emergency” powers in the Heroes Act (of all things!) that stretches the limits of presidential authority to a new breaking point.  It can only be viewed as inflationary at a time when we had just been making some progress on turning the corner on an inflation crisis and the power of the issue was starting to wane for the midterm elections.  It plays right into MAGA hands as it can be painted as elitist, making a direct “payment” to the college-educated at a time when the Democratic party is struggling to retain its historical blue-collar base.  Those who pursued trades occupations should be rightly insulted.  (See  https://www.newsweek.com/mike-rowe-slams-student-debt-forgiveness-1555317.)   It’s anathema to American Families taking accountability for their decisions and “educating” their children about the costs and payoffs of attending various colleges or other post-secondary learning or experiences.  Provides more red meat for the Republicans to take away Democratic momentum driven by the Roe decision.   A clear instance of caving to or at least mollifying far left progressives (who will not be pleased as it didn’t go far enough).  

The mid-term election fortunes were shifting. The Roe issue was “winning” over inflation.  Few if any candidates were asking for direct participation from Biden/the White House.  I can only conclude that this is an issue where Biden let his legacy and ego get the better of him.” 

Although some pundits are opining that the Administration action will help Democrats in this fall’s elections, I share our friend’s concern that Mr. Biden may have committed an unforced political blunder that will hurt his party’s prospects.  I know that we both hope that our fears prove unfounded.

Liz Cheney v. Mr. Trump’s BDE: Part II

[If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is below), I would start there.]

As many have observed in recent days, if U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney elects to launch a campaign for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination, she will bring formidable assets to what I would see as a political guerilla effort – her goal being to politically weaken former President Donald Trump for the November 2024 general presidential election, not to defeat him for the Republican nomination.  She has strong name recognition and positive renown among many of our citizens (if not the Trumplicans), a strong campaign financial position coupled with enviable fund raising opportunities which will enable her to persevere despite what will almost certainly be disappointing objective results on the primary circuit, her pick of the best Republican strategists repulsed by the Trumplican movement, and a lot of sympathetic media.  While these are vital to her effort, all are but tactical tools to fulfill her strategy.  Unlike virtually every other presidential campaign I’ve ever heard of — in which the candidate dreams, no matter how quixotically, of achieving the White House, and thus seeks to pick up delegates in all states — Ms. Cheney’s aim from the outset will be to sow enough doubt about Mr. Trump in the states that will decide the 2024 November presidential election (judging by 2020, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, Florida, Minnesota, and New Hampshire) to deny Mr. Trump the presidency.  As such, I would submit that the important figure in her recent Wyoming Republican primary loss was not her opponent’s total, or the margin by which she lost, but rather the 28% that voted for her.  (I think it’s tenable to pose that the cross-over Democratic votes she received substituted to some extent for the votes of Republican Cheney supporters who didn’t participate because they knew she was going to be soundly defeated.)  A recent NBC News poll found that 57% of Americans want the investigations into Mr. Trump to continue, a seemingly reasonable indicator that he has significant political weakness with the general electorate (although it would obviously be more meaningful to have snapshots of the voters’ attitudes toward the investigations in the respective pivotal Electoral College states).  In order to condition her supporters to what will be disappointing primary vote totals by traditional political standards, from the outset of her campaign she must consistently message that she does not expect to out-poll Mr. Trump in any primary.  If through her campaign she can persuade perhaps 15% of self-described Republicans (about half of the sample size of her primary support) and a good share of the conservative Independents in swing states that they cannot support Mr. Trump in the 2024 November election, I don’t think he can reclaim the presidency if the Democrats run a suitable candidate (this latter caveat the subject of a previous post).

Some suggest that it will be difficult for Ms. Cheney to mount a nationwide campaign because those state Republican organizations under Mr. Trump’s control will seek to keep her off their primary ballots.  This would only matter if she was in it to win it.  I’ll hazard that her guerilla effort gains more than it loses where she’s kept off the ballot and can straightforwardly claim that a state’s Republican apparatus has been “rigged” against her.

Some suggest that the National Republican Committee will go to any lengths to keep Ms. Cheney out of any debates with Mr. Trump.  While such a shutout is the only logical course for Mr. Trump to take — I think most observers would expect Ms. Cheney to score heavily — if he doesn’t debate, such a maneuver will nonetheless put him in a box he won’t like:  he won’t be able to escape the impression that he’s afraid to debate … a woman.  Recently, Arizona Republican Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake actually lauded Mr. Trump’s “BDE.” (For those of you scoring at home, that’s “Big Dick Energy.”  Yes, really.)  What Ms. Cheney could do with an “Empty Chair” debate format in lieu of an exchange with Mr. Trump is tantalizing.  She could repeatedly point out that Mr. Trump was scared to face … a girl.  Right in front of our eyes, his BDE would … shrivel.  (I know, I know; I just couldn’t help myself.)  

Two final notes.  First, it is ironic that if Rep. Cheney actually won the Republican nomination – seemingly more than theoretically possible if she was facing not Mr. Trump himself but a field of Trump Wannabes, who would split the pro-Trump vote in the early primaries, perhaps enabling her to seize the nomination in a reverse of the strategy Mr. Trump himself used in 2016 – I think she’d have a much easier path to the presidency than Mr. Trump has.  Traditional Republicans are tribal – they’ve shown themselves in the Trump Era to be willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican mantle — and in the 2024 November election Ms. Cheney could probably compensate for the loss of Trumplican cultists with the votes of Independents and moderate Democrats grateful that she deposed Mr. Trump.

Second, as Mr. Trump continues to incite violence in a transparent attempt to avoid what now appears impending prosecution for a myriad of crimes, I wonder whether he realizes that if Ms. Cheney runs against him, and any of his supporters attempt to visit violence upon her, he will not be able to escape responsibility for the shock that would register in the minds of a determinative majority of Americans.  Even if he is able to stay out of jail, I think he would be finished politically, no matter whom the Democrats nominate for president.  Since he has no moral compass, hopefully he’ll realize that for his own good, he should immediately strongly speak out against violence toward Ms. Cheney if she mounts a presidential campaign against him.  I hope he will.  Since he’s emotionally a bad-seed preschooler, I realize he won’t.

When President Biden, a genuinely good man, assumed the presidency in January, 2021, I hoped that by his manner he could reintroduce some sanity and comity across most of our political spectrum.  Mr. Trump’s persistence in his Big Lie, the zealous gullibility of his supporters, and the traitorous discord sown over the last two years by Mr. Trump, his minions, and alt-right propagandists such as Fox News, have dashed such hopes.  Hoping for a gradual resolution of the toxicity inflamed by Mr. Trump hasn’t worked.  Now, the battle needs to be directly joined.  I see no one but Liz Cheney that can inject an antitoxin that will cleave the Republican Party and protect our republic.  She will obviously bide her time until 2023, to avoid providing Mr. Trump’s cohort the opportunity to cast an overt political taint on the work of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, for which she serves as Vice Chair.  I hope she will run, but she’s not my wife or daughter.  Given the physical dangers she will face if she mounts a campaign, I would fully understand if her husband, children, and parents hope that she doesn’t.

Liz Cheney v. Mr. Trump’s BDE: Part I

[Note:  the notions set forth in this post are ultimately based upon the perhaps questionable assumption that Trumplicans who have captured discretionary control of the electoral mechanisms in some swing states don’t deny the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee fairly-won Electoral College votes.]

What follows is largely cast on the presumption that former President Donald Trump will seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president.  At this juncture it seems overwhelmingly likely he will, and – perhaps to the surprise of those who know that I consider him and his acolytes a fascist cult – I hope he does. Trump Wannabes such as FL. Gov. Ron DeSantis are clearly seeking to exploit the resentment and unrest Mr. Trump has incited to their own political advantage, but such Wannabes, although potentially every bit as anti-democratic as Mr. Trump, would carry less baggage into a 2024 presidential election and thus, be harder for a Democrat to defeat; furthermore, even if a Wannabe was defeated, such might only serve to reinforce rather than diminish Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence.  I would submit that what we have seen over the last two years makes it clear that Mr. Trump himself must be defeated – he needs to be made a two-time loser — if we are going to start to excise the growing cancer in the American polity to which he has given license.

As all who care are aware, last week U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney lost the Republican primary to run as the party’s nominee for the Wyoming Congressional seat she now holds — to a Trump supplicant, by a 66.3% to 28.9% margin — and thus, will be leaving Congress at the end of this year.

Media commentators are now jumping over each other to declare that Ms. Cheney might run for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.  She has reportedly strongly hinted at a presidential campaign in interviews.  In January and May I speculated in these pages that she might mount such a presidential run, and upon the effect that such a campaign could have on the White House aspirations of Mr. Trump or, if Mr. Trump decided not to run, upon those of Trump Wannabes such as Mr. DeSantis.

First:  If Ms. Cheney declares for the presidency, she will, given the increasing tendency to violence fomented by Mr. Trump among his cult, be exposing herself to the most imminent physical danger of any presidential candidate at least as far back as U.S. MA Sen. Edward Kennedy’s 1980 campaign (Mr. Kennedy’s family and advisors then understandably feared the possibility that an unbalanced assailant might seek to replicate the assassinations of Mr. Kennedy’s brothers).  Such a campaign will require extraordinary physical courage.  If advising Ms. Cheney, I would therefore point out that she has strong reasons not to make a run:  foremost, her husband and five children.  I would also indicate what I am pretty sure she already knows:  she is probably the only person in America that has a real chance to bring about the political demise of Donald Trump.

Some pundits have suggested that Ms. Cheney might seek to confront Mr. Trump through a communications strategy rather than a political campaign.  If she is indeed willing to continue her battle with Mr. Trump, she should reject such a notion.  Think of the clever but largely ineffective work of The Lincoln Project.  It’s hard to see how any similar effort by Ms. Cheney – who, under such an approach, would be “yesterday’s news” – would be any more successful.

To command and maintain the media attention that an effective effort against Mr. Trump will require, Ms. Cheney needs to be “news,” which means that she must – to borrow a phrase from former President Richard Nixon – enter the Arena.  She must declare her candidacy for the Republican nomination for president.  I believe she knows this.  (If her goal is to keep Mr. Trump out of the White House, she cannot run as an Independent.  I am pretty sure that she and those around her must realize that such an Independent effort would ultimately siphon from the Democratic nominee the votes of those moderately-conservative voters uneasy with progressive policies who are nonetheless determined to vote against Mr. Trump; any split in the anti-Trump vote in November, 2024, will obviously enhance Mr. Trump’s chances to reclaim the presidency.)

Because Rep. Cheney has virtually no chance of securing the Republican nomination – of which I am also pretty confident that she is aware — I’ve heard more than one commentator accordingly declare that any campaign she would launch would be a “kamikaze mission.”  I disagree.  I would submit that her campaign from its very outset would be more accurately described as political guerrilla warfare – intended to weaken the enemy, not to defeat him outright.  The form such an effort might take will be addressed in Part II of this note.

On the Mar-A-Lago Raid … and Al Capone

[First, a qualification:  although I have heard legal analysts comment that the FBI’s recent search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate was not a “raid” because it was seemingly undertaken entirely according to lawful procedures, the word, “raid,” is nonetheless used at points in this note because it is significantly easer and shorter than the phrase, “a search conducted by the FBI pursuant to a warrant issued by a federal judge upon a finding of probable cause that evidence would be discovered leading to conviction of a crime.”  😉 ].

I suggested in an earlier post that in U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s place, what might cause me to refrain from bringing criminal charges against Mr. Trump – despite my beliefs that no one is above the law, and that there is cogent evidence that Mr. Trump is guilty of seditious conspiracy – was the practical problem of empaneling 12 open-minded jurors in an environment in which at least a third of Americans are in Mr. Trump’s cult.  I would feel – and strongly suspect that Mr. Garland feels – that for the good of the country, one cannot afford to bring criminal charges against Mr. Trump, and lose.

That said, my reluctance was expressed when considering and in the context of crimes that inevitably have a subjective element – and thus, the potential for Mr. Trump’s plausible deniability – including not only seditious conspiracy but crimes such as the instances of obstruction of justice described by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in Volume II of his report.

In apparently determining to first pursue Mr. Trump under the Presidential Records Act (the “PRA”), Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) team are seemingly being pretty tactical, but pragmatic.  They have perhaps chosen to start with an arguably relatively innocuous statute – at least as compared to the legion of other, potentially more momentous, charges for which there appears to be compelling evidence against Mr. Trump – because proving a PRA offense could be the most objective, and thus, the easiest to establish.  (That said, how harmless the offense might be will obviously ultimately depend on what, if any, material Mr. Trump might be proven to have illegally kept; more on this below.)  It’s up or down, black or white.  Mr. Trump either had illegally retained documents under his control at the time of the raid, or he didn’t.  Clearly, Mr. Garland – and the federal judge authorizing the Mar-A-Lago search warrant, based upon the DOJ affidavit presented in support of the warrant application – had a strong belief that he did.  If such records were on the Mar-A-Lago estate, presumably the FBI now has them.  Since negotiations regarding these records have reportedly gone on for months between Mr. Trump and federal authorities, it will seemingly be difficult for the former president to claim that he didn’t know that he had them (if he indeed did).  The DOJ perhaps considers the PRA the simplest vehicle to establish a straightforward violation with the potential for securing a relatively quick conviction.

Even so – and despite all the chortling by liberal media outlets – the obtaining of a search warrant and the execution of the attendant search doesn’t constitute an indictment, much less a conviction, of Mr. Trump.  Even if he is ultimately indicted and convicted, a fairly quick internet search of legal authority sets forth a legal view that such conviction would not, despite the PRA’s purported prohibition upon a perpetrator’s holding of federal office, prevent Mr. Trump from seeking and assuming the presidency because Congress doesn’t have the power to add hurdles to a citizen’s right to become president that are not set forth in the Constitution.

The ramifications of this week’s raid may ultimately be determined by what was retrieved.  If something truly significant was recovered, and can be publicized, such will seemingly have an impact upon Mr. Trump’s political fortunes as well as his personal freedom.  (I note with interest reports that Mr. Trump’s legal and media defenders – who for the most part probably have no better idea than anyone else what might have been recovered – are suggesting that the FBI might have “planted” evidence on Mr. Trump, laying the groundwork to enable them to sow doubt about any serious transgression in the minds of Mr. Trump’s credulous followers.)  On the other hand, if what Mr. Trump had in his possession merely amounts to a technical but inconsequential violation – what basketball fans call a “ticky-tack foul” – such could have little effect on Mr. Trump’s political aspirations or perhaps even generate sympathy for him among the moderately-conservative voter segments whose support he needs to reclaim the presidency. 

As Mr. Trump was fond of saying during his presidency:  We’ll see what happens.  Maybe this week’s raid will amount to something; perhaps it will amount to nothing.  However, and as many are aware, Al Capone was never convicted of murder, extortion, or bootlegging; he was ultimately brought low by a conviction for income tax evasion.  Perhaps Mr. Trump will suffer a similar fate due to an infraction far afield from the many, seemingly more significant, betrayals of our republic for which there is persuasive evidence of his guilt.