April 2018 Archives


I have been reading James Comey's book for the past few days, and to start with my overall reaction, Comey isn't that great a guy.  The book is almost entirely self-promotional, even when he admits his own character flaws, which I sense he's done so as to defuse any claim that he wrote and published it out of conceit and egotistical need for validation of his sanctimony.  I am just getting to the part of the book that's about Donald Trump, for whom I also have no esteem, but when I have read that portion of Comey's self-authored apologia, I'll have something to say about our beloved president too.  Overall however, I assume there will be no surprises in Comey's treatment of that subject, and on that basis I can say that Trump and Comey deserve each other.

Comey speaks of every controversial decision he has made as if he had no good options, but the traditional conduct of the FBI would have prevented the havoc he has wreaked on both his life and ours.    As a matter of standard practice, in what the FBI as an institution has effectively determined to be the best practice, the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of any investigation.  Comey claims that there is a convenient exception for matters of high public interest and significance, and I can't say that such an exception doesn't exist.  But like every American who wishes that the results of our 2016 presidential election could have been more reflective of the majority of Americans'  values and will, I believe that neither the public interest nor the significance of the Clinton emails "matter" were served by Comey.  He voluntarily went before the press and told the world what the FBI was doing, twice in person and twice via letters to congressional leaders that were certain to be leaked the second they left his office, and they were.  His ostensibly tortured deliberations in choosing between what he calls a bad option and catastrophe were a contrivance of his own making.  He justifies his actions by invoking the raging public and media-promoted dialectic over Hillary Clinton's probity, but the choice he made did nothing to mitigate the partisan struggle for popular credence.  No matter what they thought they knew over at Fox News, Comey should have remained invisible instead of strutting before the public like a 6'8" NBA forward at a championship game.  Comey should never have been the story, but he was and is.  That is his doing, not his ineluctable fate.  If he had just said when asked, if asked, that the FBI never either confirms or denies the existence of an investigation, none of this would have happened: no controversy, no autocratic appearances by a star bureaucrat to aggrandize himself, no star status, and no book, nor the money he is going to make from it.  To be honest, I wouldn't have bought it out of a desire to deprive the guy of ill gotten gain, but my wife knows my interest in politics so she got it for me, and I am grateful.  Now I feel that I know that what I suspected is true: both our former FBI director and our president are ignoble people, and their ignoble war of personality has had hundreds of millions of casualties.

If nothing else, the book makes manifest Comey's ability to fool himself into thinking that the typical prosecutor mentality is morally valid.  He discusses one case in which a corrupt but eminent clergyman enlisted some of his minor colleagues to process illicit funds for him.  The schemer was prosecuted and imprisoned, but so was one of his abettors.  Comey speaks of the latter man as an innocent naive victim of the conniving star preacher, but he oversaw the man's prosecution and ruination, as well as his imprisonment.  In a hypocritical flourish meant, I'm sure, to exculpate himself, he made reference to General Patraeus's  suspended sentence for a far worse crime--voluntarily providing state secrets to his lover, who was also his biographer--as if it were evidence of a double standard which prevented Patraeus from getting his just deserts.  It never occurred to him that perhaps it was two standards for two different felonies, and that the na├»ve preacher should have gotten the treatment that Patraeus got instead of the other way around.

I hesitate to use a colloquialism like "weasel" when writing about public figures.  It's too comical in its implication and two informal to be taken as a serious indictment of character.   But to put it bluntly, I can't think of a better word for Comey, and having seen Donald Trump on television news being what he is since I was thirty, I think I would have to include him in the weasel class as well.  Fortunately, they aren't of different sexes or we might have been scourged with a whole family of weasels once they met face to face.  Trump apparently will sleep with anything, and Comey will do anything to get talked about.

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

The stress induced by the administration of Donald Trump has been ubiquitous and virtually constant for almost a year and three months.  Between seemingly always imminent impeachment of a man from whom anyone from New York over the age of fifty would expect nothing better to the prospect of nuclear war that seems to loom overhead like clouds in Britain, hand wringing has become the national preoccupation.  Now, Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been raided by the FBI, which is no surprise to any lawyer since Cohen's explanations for his conduct purportedly unsolicited by someone with whom he had no attorney client relationship in the Stormy Daniels case lack even a patina of credibility or prudence.  Cohen claims that he wasn't acting at Trump's behest when he paid the porn star off, which means that as to that matter, he had no privileged relationship with our president.  So, by making that claim, he has opened his records on the transaction to scrutiny by law enforcement investigating, among other things, the professional conduct of Michael Cohen.

Then there is Trump's conduct of our foreign affairs, as if his domestic affairs weren't disturbing enough.  First he threatens to bomb North Korea because its dictator is shorter than he is, and then Trump wants to sit down with him to talk about what was nuclear saber rattling just weeks ago.  Now, he is threatening retribution for Syria's apparent resurrection of its chemical warfare tactics and exchanging mutual threats with the Russians, effectively daring them to take action against us.  And then, of course, there is the "Russia Investigation."

The Republican Party has become a collective apologist for Trump since the passage of the tax plan he signed in December, but there are still a few Republicans who see beyond the November mid-term elections.  More than one of them has warned that firing Robert Mueller III from his position as special counsel would be tantamount to obstruction of justice and would likely result in impeachment, yet Trump continues to allow speculation that he might resort to such action.  To be sure, not all Republicans are adamant about the peril to our political stability that Trump represents, but as was said in the period preceding the Nixon resignation, we may well be facing a constitutional crisis like that devolving from the "Saturday Night Massacre."  No doubt the result would eventually be a helicopter ride from the White House south lawn for our suede-shod president.  Still, it's not all bad.

Paul Ryan announced to his caucus today that he is not running for reelection.  That suggests that even among the party faithful--even among the blindly loyal leadership-- there is apprehension if not dread over facing their constituents at home again as they had to do when they tried...and failed...to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something that only the upper middle class could love, but even they only if they didn't give a damn about anyone else.   Ryan, who's lived for congress since he first went to The House at the age of 22 in 1992, is retiring young rather than confront the failure of the party he is so obliging to that he was willing to turn apostate when the candidate he deprecated only months and days earlier became our Republican president.  His entire career has been the Republican agenda and manifesting Ayn Rand's thinking in government action...or perhaps more accurately, inaction.  He isn't giving up his life's preoccupation because he thinks that his dogma and his party are working out.  It is unlikely that a staunch advocate turned presidential toady will be missed, but it is clear that he is just one more sheep following the bellwethers who preceded him into political oblivion voluntarily.  Ryan will no doubt run for something some time, but for the moment, he is tainted by his craven capitulation to Donald Trump's peremptory vilifications and threats, and he likely will gather a few more gray hairs before doing so in order to claim that he has learned some lessons and now is capable of independent thought.

No one who was awake the night that Donald Trump won the presidency is taking this November for granted.  However, the Republicans as a party have once again grabbed their foot-shooting pistol, drawn it out of its holster and fired a few times, so the only real question is, did the party's constituents, Trump loyalists in particular, hear the gunshots. 

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

We seem to be at one of those pivotal forks in our historical road at which dispositive action must be taken to define us an our collective destiny.  In 1776, some revolutionaries wrote and published the Declaration of Independence.  In 1789, many of those same leaders wrote and saw to the ratification of our Constitution, which continues to define us as a nation today.  There were our entries into WWs I and II not to mention the Civil War from beginning to end.  What is impending now that requires such seminal action is the nature of our capitalist economic creed.  We are on the cusp of a new insistence of the great mass of Americans on a more equitable and durable form of common weal that will sustain us all without wide-spread poverty counterbalancing obscene wealth.  Our laws need change such as to favor the individual, productive worker rather than idle moguls, their executives and their scions.  And while that is what Donald Trump professes to be a force for achieving, he is nothing of the sort and his most recent acts on the international economic stage bear that out.

One of our president's motivations for the tariffs he is threatening and imposing is the "theft" of intellectual property by China in particular, which poses two seminal questions.  First, how does he define theft, and second, since the purported victims of these thefts are major corporations trying to do business in China for the most part, why should we ordinary people have to pay a price for such protection as tariffs that are precipitating retaliatory, reciprocal actions that will cost us money and jobs down here where the majority of us live.  As to the first question, American big businesses have puled for years about the fact that the Chinese government requires them to take on Chinese partners and disclose their proprietary secrets in order to do business in their country.  Those businesses comply in most cases and the result is that their innovations become a sort of community property in China, but overlooked is the fact that each of those American businesses could just say no.  The reason they don't is that China represents a market of 1.2 billion people and in American business, getting bigger is an end in itself for reasons that are too complex, and for the most part reprehensible to discuss in such a limited forum as this.  Thus, one of the functions of these tariffs is to protect American corporate greed and ambition to dominate the competition by growing faster than they do: a dubious undertaking at best.  And the consequence of the tariffs is that we will have to pay more for what we buy in an era in which business, which provides us with the jobs for which we are stubbornly underpaid, stands like a bastion of self-service against the financial progress of the working man and woman.  Wages continue to stagnate while wealth among the lucky few continues to burgeon, so why should be acquiesce in the trade war that our president is precipitating.  Why should we support those who withhold our prosperity for their own benefit by protecting them from Chinese intellectual predation when it will cost all of us money.

The second question is a bit more subtle.  Why should Americans expend precious resources to protect exportation, which often times enriches only the wealthy few, such as in the case of the almond business.  Most of the almonds produced in this country are produced in Southern California, and in a sort of invitation for us to rethink our economic creed, almonds are going to be the object of a new Chinese tariff.  But as it happens, almond growing requires a tremendous amount of water, which is scarce in Southern California.  Thus, a major portion of the almond market being Chinese consumption, we are wantonly expending a crucial resource needed by millions of American consumers so that a wealthy few can export what they produce to another country rather than focusing on producing something that we can use here so as not to squander precious resources in the quest for unnatural profit from abroad.

Whether or not there are other ways to rein in the Chinese is only a secondary consideration.  The primary consideration is the measure of the ostensible gain that we can hope will inure to us as Americans rather than to us as businesses.  We are not the American corporations.  We are the American people. 

Your friend,

Mike

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