Category Archives: Blog

Memorial Day 2020

On Memorial Day we in the United States honor the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces bravely defending the freedoms so many of us take for granted. It is a solemn occasion, meant to be a day for reflection. An acknowledgement of the sacrifices made and the lives cut short.

Presidents traditionally place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. The Tomb is marked with the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Presidents often mark the occasion with words of reassurance to the American people, expressing empathy and gratefulness for their loses. In this year of Covid-19, with about 100,000 Americans dead from the disease, many of them members of the military and many more from the front line of doctors, other medical personnel and first responders, such words would have been welcome.

But eloquence is not in Donald J. Trump’s vocabulary and empathy not in his playbook. Yes he did go and lay the wreath. After all, it made for a nice photo-op and will certainly get prominent play on the evening news. But Trump’s true emotions showed in his actions. After declaring houses of worship to be “essential” services and threatening the nation’s governors that he would “override them” if they did not allow churches to reopen this weekend, Trump immediately headed for the golf course. On both Saturday and Sunday Trump dragged his large contingent of security forces and hangers-on to his private Virginia golf course and played a few rounds. After his actions met with derision from critics and negative news reports, he took as usual to Twitter.

Trump’s obsession with President Barack Obama, more then three years into the Trump administration will by itself be fodder for the PhD dissertations of a generation of psychology students. It is just one item of evidence supporting the argument that Trump is a deeply troubled man.

Trump this Memorial Day weekend also threatened North Carolina that he would move the planned Republican Party convention from that state unless the Democratic governor Roy Cooper lifts all social distancing directives, allowing the Republicans to pack a stadium elbow to elbow, Covid-19 be damned.

Even worse then this holiday weekend’s series of direct tweets by Trump are the tweets of others retweeted by Trump. When you retweet, you pass along a message you came across to your followers. Trump has a history of retweeting some of the most inflammatory, vile, and crude screeds in this fashion. This weekend he passed along eight tweets from John K. Stahl, a failed Republican candidate for Congress from California.

Just in case you need a decoder for some of this garbage that Trump thinks you need to read, the first tweet takes a swipe at Stacey Abrams, the black former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives who might now be governor of that state if the Republicans had run a fair election. Abrams is considered a possible running mate for Joe Biden. The second tweet attacks Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who Stahl calls “PolyGrip.” And the third plants the moniker “Malarkey the Racist” on Biden himself while calling Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who beat Trump by almost three million in the popular vote count, a “skank.” Trump has been trying to brand Biden as a racist ever since Biden made a gaffe in a radio interview Friday. A gaffe for which Biden quickly apologized. Even hear Trump apologize for anything? Neither have I.

Contrast that with the message from our previous president, commenorating Memorial Day 2020:

I still miss him.

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The Justices Take a Landmark Step. Unwillingly.

Mark your calendar. Beginning May 4 and ending May 13, the Supreme Court of the United States will make history. It took the coronavirus pandemic to do it, but over six dates the Court will hear oral arguments on ten cases, and the people of the United States will be able for the first time to hear those arguments as they happen.

This is happening because the Court, like most of us, is practicing Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with the justices and staff working mostly from their homes. The Court first delayed these arguments, then decided to hold the hearings via teleconference.

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Issac Asimov at 100

I must have been eight years old. My Uncle Alan, my Dad’s older brother, had already established his expertise at “uncling” by introducing me to the Museum of Science and Industry buying me my first model train set, a Lionel Steamer, and showing me where he stashed his bottomless supply of Hershey chocolate bars.

Now he was to open up my world another notch by leading me to his stack of science fiction. The 25¢ pulp magazines of short stories, and the 50¢ paperbacks. On the top of the paperback stack was I Robot by Isaac Asimov. Right then and there began my decades long love for science fiction. Read more

L’état n’est pas Donald Trump

L’affaire Trump has entered a new stage. In a scathing eight page letter to Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, White House counsel Pat Cipollone declared that Donald Trump “cannot participate” in the House’s impeachment inquiry, complaining the “inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections.”

The Trumpies of course love the letter even though it reads like Trump himself sketched it out, filling it with his long list of lies and manufactured grievances, and then handed it to Cipollone. I can imagine Cipollone struggling to take out Trump’s usual adjectives like, “lil’ Adam Schiff,” and adding some legalese. The resulting argument would get a failing grade in anyone’s first year Constitutional Law course.

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The Whistle Blows for Trump

I won’t even try to fight it, as I did in my last blog. Now the whistleblower’s complaint has been released and so was a summary memo describing the telephone conversation Donald Trump had with the President of Ukraine.

Please, I beg you. READ the complaint and the telephone call memo. Make up your own mind. Beware the pundits and the spinners. Even me. It remains both inexplicable and frustrating to me that two people can look at the same material and come to different conclusions. But that’s life. What I can’t abide is people voicing an opinion without having read the material. Each document is only a handful of pages long. Make the effort.

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Why is it so hard?

I think I’ve figured out why it is so hard to get these blogs written. I have a routine. I’ll have an idea, spend half a day thinking about it and doing any necessary research. Then I’ll spend the afternoon writing. Then I sleep on it and the next morning, edit it with fresh eyes and look for a visual or two to insert. Easy, right?

The problem is I keep writing about Donald Trump. He dominates the news and my thoughts. I simply can’t believe what he says. I can’t believe what he does or tries to do. I can’t believe how many people passively remain quiet or openly support his actions. So I write. But overnight, he does something worse. Day in and day out. Now, come the morning, I’m faced with the dilemma, finish the piece from the day before, or drop everything to tackle the latest horror? I’m frozen in the headlights of Trump.

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Parliament: At Least Debate

One of the more esoteric debates in academia for those studying politics is the contrast between the American form of government, with a strong executive and an elected legislature wielding equal power, with the democratic parliamentary system in which the elected legislature is the ultimate power, the head of state subservient to it and the executive chosen by it. In other words, America v. England.

I frequently got into this debate with my father, a true Anglophile, and we never resolved the issue. The compare and contrast form of discussion was, in many way, ironic because of the historical circumstances. England had a strong executive at the time of the American revolution. King George III reigned at that time, had considerable real power compared with today’s Queen Elizabeth II, and was for Americans the perfect example of a leader to be avoided.

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