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Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

“Yes, He Did.”

To the surprise of no one, the Senate Republicans orchestrated a bogus impeachment trial, and both articles of impeachment against the Orange Vulgarian were voted down.

To their credit, all 45 Democratic senators and both independent senators voted guilty on the articles. That was the proper and rational thing to do, seeing as how the evidence of Trump’s guilt was clear.

A while back, in one of my periodic diatribes about the neanderthal behavior of today’s right-wingers, I referred to “cynical conservative politicians” who are “beneath contempt with virtually no exceptions.

That statement no longer is accurate. At the impeachment trial, an exception surfaced. A single surprising and notable exception.

At the trial, Mitt Romney had the stones to vote guilty on the first article of impeachment, which charged abuse of power. As the evidence showed, Trump did, indeed, extort the Ukrainian President, trying to get a political favor.

Of the 53 Republicans in the Senate, Romney was the only one with the integrity to cast a guilty vote. The other 52 Republicans fell in line behind Trump, affirming that, yes, they are beneath contempt.

I should mention that Romney voted not guilty on the second article, obstruction of Congress That was disappointing. Trump was guilty of the second article prima facie,having explicitly obstructed Congress in plain sight for all to see. Mitt should have voted his conscience on that one, too.

Still, he deserves praise for showing unexpected class and doing the right thing, in stark contrast to the other 52 Republican senators.

Mitt’s speech explaining his vote was powerful and commendable. This is what he said.

———

The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it. The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of Congress for these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other’s good faith.

The allegations made in the articles of impeachment are very serious. As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise “impartial justice.” I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.

I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

The House Managers presented evidence supporting their case; the White House counsel disputed that case. In addition, the President’s team presented three defenses: first, that there can be no impeachment without a statutory crime; second, that the Bidens’ conduct justified the President’s actions; and third that the judgment of the President’s actions should be left to the voters. Let me first address each of those defenses.

The historic meaning of the words “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the writings of the Founders and my own reasoned judgment convince me that a president can indeed commit acts against the public trust that are so egregious that while they are not statutory crimes, they would demand removal from office. To maintain that the lack of a codified and comprehensive list of all the outrageous acts that a president might conceivably commit renders Congress powerless to remove a president defies reason.

The President’s counsel noted that Vice President Biden appeared to have a conflict of interest when he undertook an effort to remove the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. If he knew of the exorbitant compensation his son was receiving from a company actually under investigation, the Vice President should have recused himself. While ignoring a conflict of interest is not a crime, it is surely very wrong.

With regards to Hunter Biden, taking excessive advantage of his father’s name is unsavory but also not a crime. Given that in neither the case of the father nor the son was any evidence presented by the President’s counsel that a crime had been committed, the President’s insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit.

There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did.

The defense argues that the Senate should leave the impeachment decision to the voters. While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president.

Hamilton explained that the Founders’ decision to invest senators with this obligation rather than leave it to voters was intended to minimize — to the extent possible — the partisan sentiments of the public.

This verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty.

The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The President’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not “perfect” — No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.

In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, “I stand with the team.” I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside.

Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.

I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters.

Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?

I sought to hear testimony from John Bolton not only because I believed he could add context to the charges, but also because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.

Like each member of this deliberative body, I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence. I am convinced that freedom itself is dependent on the strength and vitality of our national character.

As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction. We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office. The results of this Senate Court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgment of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the President’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate.

But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.

I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong.

We’re all footnotes, at best, in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.

———

Trump and his sycophants will exact their revenge on Romney. It’s in their nature. But Romney will be remembered kindly by history for an admirable display of integrity.

As for Trump, the Republican politicians, and the MAGA crowd, history will remember them as they deserve to be remembered: some mentally unsound, some opportunistic and self-serving, and all beneath contempt.

Romney

 

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Audacity

Home entertainment-wise, I am seriously behind the times. In this age of streaming via the internet, I still have DirecTV.

I signed up with DirecTV when I moved to Jefferson in 2006. The cost was always too high, but I get the programming I want, and I’m used to it. However, I’m thinking it’s time for a change.

Things started going south a few years ago, when DirecTV was acquired by AT&T.

At the time, I had no opinion about AT&T one way or the other. I can’t recall ever doing business with them.

And, for a year or so after the takeover, nothing changed. My DirecTV service was the same, as was the website, as was the billing system.

Then the tentacles of AT&T began reaching out. My opinion of AT&T quickly formed, and it wasn’t positive.

First, the DirecTV billing system was scrapped, and AT&T took over.

I realize there were business reasons for doing it. The trouble is, the DirecTV billing process was simple and easy, and the AT&T system is complicated and crappy.

To access my monthly statement, I now go to the clunky AT&T website and drill down to DirecTV. My statement is six steps away instead of two. Annoying.

Further, AT&T now has my records, so they pester me constantly with letters and emails, trying to lure me away from Verizon. Annoying.

Last month, however, AT&T crossed the line in a frankly shocking way. I’m still amazed at the audacity.

It started with a phone call that I answered reluctantly. (I was expecting a call from a prospective new lawn guy, and I didn’t know his number, so I picked up.)

The call was from a fellow with an Indian accent who identified himself as from AT&T. He wanted me to add HBO and Showtime to my DirecTV service. He was pushing a special deal where you get $13 off the $30 monthly cost for the first three months.

If I wanted HBO or Showtime, I would have ordered it years ago. I told him no thanks, and I hung up.

The next day, I got an email from AT&T that read, “Thanks for choosing AT&T. Please scroll down to review your DirecTV order details.”

Order details?

What followed was a breakdown of my new DirecTV monthly charges, which included $30 for HBO and Showtime, minus $13 off for three months.

What the — ??

The email also included this friendly paragraph:

You have accepted a 24 MONTH PROGRAMMING AGREEMENT. If you decide to cancel your service early or do not maintain 24 consecutive months of base level programming (priced at $29.99/mo. or above) or qualifying international services bundle, you will be charged an Early Termination Fee (ETF) of $10.00 per month for each month remaining on your 24-month contract (up to $240.00).

It closed with the usual 20 paragraphs of policy and legal stuff.

Boy, was I steamed. AT&T signed me up for service I specifically declined. Did that bonehead on the phone think I wouldn’t notice I was receiving new services? And being charged for it?

Brimming with righteous indignation, I called AT&T Customer Service. After a wait that wasn’t too bad, another guy with an Indian accent came on the line. He was relatively friendly and pleasant, which helped.

I read him parts of the email about the added service. I complained that I had declined the additions, not accepted them. I said I resented the brazenness and chicanery, and I wanted my previous service package restored.

The guy said the phone call indeed is shown in my files, and it indicates that I accepted the new service. BUT, he added quickly when he could tell I was about to explode, it was an easy matter to reverse it and make things right.

He also said someone would look into the “mix-up” because, you know, AT&T is committed to the finest in customer service and all that.

Later that day, I got a follow-up email from AT&T. It was identical to the first, except the HBO and Showtime service had been removed, the new charges were deleted, and the friendly paragraph cited above was gone.

I was, of course, still miffed about being played. Maybe not by AT&T itself, but certainly by that villain who called me.

Then a third email arrived from AT&T, and I was steamed anew. It asked me to rate my recent experience with AT&T Customer Service.

Because the second guy had been a decent sort, I deleted the email instead of unloading on them. But, oh, the audacity.

Word is, AT&T now wants to sell DirecTV because the satellite business has become a dinosaur, and DirecTV is hemorrhaging customers. AT&T has tried to get into streaming with “AT&T TV Now, but without much success.

One possible buyer of DirecTV: Dish Network.

I guess nobody else these days would want to invest in a satellite company.

Cord-cutting

 

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Holding Up

Friends, I have made peace with the fact that I am now an old dude. The evidence is clear, even though it’s weird to think of myself as being, like, an old geezer.

In many respects, I don’t feel that old. In my head, I’m the same Rocky Smith I’ve been since about age 10. The inner me has changed very little.

On the other hand, I’m not as mentally sharp as when I was younger. Sometimes, my brain plays tricks on me, like instructing me to go to the kitchen, then making me forget why I went there. Fortunately, I’m retired and pose no real danger to anyone.

I also show plenty of signs of physical wear. Creeping arthritis, a touch of glaucoma, a balding pate. I’ve clearly lost a step, even though I’m — knock on wood — still active and in relatively good health.

But I digress. The fact is, I’m about to turn 77, and that’s old.

Which is why, when an attendant at Kroger paid me a compliment regarding my age recently, it was quite satisfying.

When I make a run to Kroger, I always use the self-checkout because it’s faster. Last week, my shopping included a bottle of Pinot Noir, which requires an ID check.

Checking my ID is ludicrous, of course. For the last half-century, my appearance has confirmed that I am over 18, but Kroger has its stupid rules.

I scanned the bottle, and the machine beeped and announced that help was on the way. I took out my wallet and waited.

A 40-ish female employee appeared. “Can I see your ID, sir?” she asked cheerily.

I held up the wallet so she could see my license.

“January 26th, 1943,” she intoned and turned to enter the date on the screen of the scanner.

“I’d rather you didn’t say that out loud,” I told her. “I’m sensitive about my age.”

She turned and looked at me, pursed her lips, and tapped her chin in thought.

“Let me tell you something,” she said with great seriousness. “I check IDs for a living. I’ve seen the IDs of half the adults in Jefferson. I know when they were born.

“I see people every day who look older than you, and act older than you, and they’re a decade younger than you. Sometimes two.”

I was appropriately speechless.

“Take it from an expert, sir,” she said, “you’re holding up nicely. Count your blessings.”

I managed to thank her in a bumbling, awkward fashion and went on my way.

I’m still aglow.

Pinot Noir

… From the compliment, not the Pinot Noir.

 

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Seven Rules

Well, a new year has come charging in, like it or not, ready for it or not. I say it’s a good time to take a deep breath, get a grip, and reassess — to make sure your mental health and coping skills are in proper working order.

I have a great place to start. It’s the “7 Rules of Life,written bynobody seems to know.

The Seven Rules thing has become a meme that is ubiquitous online. Some versions are called “7 Cardinal Rules for Life.

The wording of the rules varies quite a bit, but all the versions reflect the same basic sentiments: relax, don’t worry so much, be yourself, and remember that time heals.

Ordinarily, I react to stuff like this with an eyeroll, but in this case, the advice is genuinely positive and helpful.

Here’s one version out of the many.

Seven Rules

Relax, don’t worry so much, be yourself, and remember that time heals.

Wisdom you can take to the bank.

 

 

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Stink, Stank, Stunk

I present herewith a variation of a beloved holiday classic, with apologies to Theodor Geisel.

The idea of our deplorable and, I’m pleased to say, impeached President as the Grinch is not new. Comparing Trump to the Grinch is obvious and appropriate.

Many Trump versions of the song have popped up over the years, some with updated lyrics (You’re as racist as a Klansman, etc.). That’s fine, but to me, it’s hard to improve on the gleeful sarcasm of the Dr. Seuss original.

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Trump

Trump-Grinch

You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump.
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel,
Mr. Trump.

You’re a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

You’re a monster, Mr. Trump.
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You’ve got garlic in your soul,
Mr. Trump.

I wouldn’t touch you
With a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.

You’re a vile one, Mr. Trump.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile,
Mr. Trump.

Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d take the seasick crocodile.

You’re a foul one, Mr. Trump.
You’re a nasty-wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
Your soul is full of gunk,
Mr. Trump.

The three words that best describe you
Are as follows, and I quote,
“Stink, stank, stunk.”

You’re a rotter, Mr. Trump.
You’re the king of sinful sots.
Your heart’s a dead tomato
Splotched with moldy, purple spots,
Mr. Trump.

Your soul is an appalling dump-heap,
Overflowing with the most disgraceful
assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled-up in tangled-up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Trump.
With a nauseous super-naus.
You’re a crooked jerky jockey,
And you drive a crooked horse,
Mr. Trump.

You’re a three-decker sauerkraut
And toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce.

Trump with Santa

 

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A crime of moral turpitude is conduct that is corrupt or degenerate. An offense that gravely violates accepted standards.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines it an act of “baseness, vileness, or the depravity in private and social duties which man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals once called it “an act which is per se morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong.”

People, it’s long past time to do the deed.

Donald Trump, the Orange Vulgarian — grifter, swindler, cheater, liar, modern-day Benedict Arnold — corrupt, incompetent, spectacularly unqualified to serve — a man who commits crimes of moral turpitude as readily as he breathes — should have been impeached long ago.

The House Democrats need to suck it up and proceed. Trump’s offenses are so numerous and so egregious, the House could pick Articles of Impeachment out of a hat.

Trump is guilty of a plethora of crimes, to some of which he has admitted. Every few days, he seems to add a new offense.

Pelosi — House Democrats — let’s get on with this! Impeach him!

If you’re having trouble drafting the Articles, maybe I can help.

I am a humble journalism major, so I have to depend on the Google to help me with the technicalities of the impeachment process. No problem. I looked up the Nixon Articles from 1974, and they are relatively simple and straightforward. Consider this excerpt from the articles.

———

Article 2

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

1. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

———

That was how the House accused Nixon of using the IRS to dig up dirt on his enemies. Which is, you know, illegal. And which easily qualifies in the “high crimes and misdemeanors” department.

Okay, specifically, what has Trump done to warrant impeachment? Plenty.

— Trump accepted help from Russia (Russia!) during the 2016 election, coordinating with them as they sabotaged the Democrats and flooded social media with false and misleading information designed to sway and/or confuse voters. Impeachable.

— Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia. Trump then publicly admitted he fired Comey because of the “Russia thing.” Impeachable.

— Trump has failed to produce papers and witnesses required by lawful subpoenas from House committees. Impeachable.

— Trump instructed Border Patrol agents to illegally block migrants from entering the United States. “If judges give you trouble,” he told the agents, just say “we don’t have the room.” He further offered to pardon the head of the Border Patrol if necessary. Impeachable.

— Trump withheld funds Congress appropriated for Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian President into announcing an investigation of Joe Biden and his son. (When the facts came out and reporters asked Trump about it, he repeated the call for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.) Textbook quid pro quo. Impeachable.

— Trump has refused to divest from his business interests and therefore routinely accepts illegal benefits when government officials, foreign or domestic, spend money at a Trump property. A textbook violation of the Emoluments Clause. Impeachable.

— Trump recently announced that the 2020 G-7 Conference would be held at his golf resort in Doral, Florida. Doing so would generate massive illegal profits for Trump. He was pressured to back down, but he made the attempt. Impeachable.

— In order to deter immigrants from crossing the southern border, Trump separated up to 5,000 children from their families and held them in makeshift camps widely described as inhumane. No provisions were made to reunite the children with their families. That sorry episode is a crime of moral turpitude on steroids. Impeachable.

— Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is in jail for lying about paying hush money to women who had affairs with Trump. Cohen paid the women, and Trump reimbursed him — after they discussed the matter in (drum roll) the Oval Office. Deplorable. Impeachable.

The foregoing list, which I compiled quickly and easily, is neither comprehensive nor complete. But it probably includes enough ammunition for two dozen solid Articles of Impeachment.

And I didn’t even mention Trump’s unbelievable betrayal of the Kurds to benefit his Turkish and Russian dictator pals. Compared to Trump, ordinary traitors are choir boys.

Pelosi — House Democrats — assemble the lawyers. Let’s get on with this. Impeach him.

Reasons

Checklist

Billionaire Tom Steyer Calls For Trump Impeachment, Begins $10 Million Campaign

 

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Do the Right Thing

The malignant influence of Donald Trump is growing. Metastasizing. We need to excise it.

Most people acknowledge that Donald Trump is a deplorable, disgraceful, awful human being. He is a shallow, petty, vulgar, vindictive man who has no skills of a positive nature.

He is not remotely qualified to be President and merely is winging it. For policy guidance, he watches Fox News, or asks his sycophants, always weighing how the issue would benefit him personally.

In front of a microphone, he is given to weaving wild, stream-of-consciousness tapestries of lies and exaggerations — the diatribes of a man who fancies himself to be suave and clever. The sheer madness of the Trump presidency is accelerating.

If he were not President, none of that would matter. We would be free to tune him out as just an obnoxious gasbag. Instead, his lack of character and qualifications affects us all.

Trump is a national embarrassment. To most of the rest of the world, he is a laughable clown, best avoided, but usually easy to manipulate.

Worse, his loyalties are not with this country. Owing to his long-time financial ties to Putin and the oligarchs, he is indebted to the Russians, literally and figuratively.

He also toadies-up shamelessly to the Saudis, who murdered and dismembered a journalist, because, as Trump admits without qualm, they are good customers.

Benedict Arnold had more class.

As for the Trump supporters, who are out there in disturbing numbers, they fall roughly into five groups:

— Cynical conservative politicians, from national to local level, who are beneath contempt with virtually no exceptions.

— People mentally flawed owing to nature, and whose reasoning abilities thus are out of whack.

— People mentally flawed owing to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine, and whose reasoning abilities thus are out of whack.

— People with some degree of a persecution complex, who feel discriminated against and disrespected, and who applaud the fact that Trump can so easily infuriate the liberals.

— People who are nominally rational, but have some kind of grievance that they believe justifies supporting Trump as a protest. Maybe they are irritated by the bureaucracy, or coastal elites, or Hispanic day laborers waiting for jobs at Home Depot. (Hint: no grievance justifies supporting Trump.)

In general, except for the politicians, these are not bad people. They are damaged people.

But they have done genuine harm to the country. Integrity and honor are not in their makeup.

Nor are they patriots, as they like to claim. History will remember the conservatives of our time as misguided enablers. They deserve both scorn and pity.

But forget about the Republicans. They are easy to understand and unlikely to change. The question is, how do the rest of us address the problem of having a dangerous nut job, an erratic loose cannon, as President?

The question from Day One has been whether to impeach or wait for 2020 and hope to vote Trump out of office.

Some Democrats say we should have impeached him long ago, and they want to start the proceedings without further delay.

Others believe impeachment is futile because the Republican Senate would never convict. They believe pursuing impeachment would only inflame the Trump voters, and the Democrats risk losing their majority in the House.

You also hear that the Democrats diddled around too long, waiting for Robert Mueller to strengthen the case against Trump, and we have run out of time for an impeachment procedure. Our only option, then, is to rally the faithful and eject him from office in 2020.

For two years, I have vacillated on this subject, just as I have favored first one Democratic presidential candidate, then another, then another.

Well, I haven’t settled on a candidate yet, but I reached a conclusion on how I think we should deal with Trump. I believe the House Democrats should move forward immediately with formal impeachment.

Maybe the process will go nowhere. Even if Articles of Impeachment pass the House, they easily could die in the Senate.

Maybe it will, indeed, outrage the conservatives, and the Democrats will lose control of the House.

Maybe so.

But no one ever deserved to be ejected from office more than this President at this moment.

And further, more is at stake than simply getting rid of Trump. We owe it to future generations to stand up for fundamental principles established by the Constitution.

Too much has happened during Trump’s presidency that is unprecedented and dangerous. I could give you a laundry list of reasons why he deserves to be booted from office, but to spare us both, I’ll only mention two easy ones.

First, blocking the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, when we know the Russians helped Trump win, is naked obstruction of justice. Prima facie grounds for impeachment.

And second, refusing to respond to lawful congressional subpoenas treats Congress as subordinate to the Executive Branch. That can’t be allowed to stand.

The Constitution created three co-equal branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial. As a safeguard, it designed them so that each branch has the ability to limit the powers of the other two.

The Constitution also provides impeachment as a mechanism to stop a President who exceeds his powers and places himself above the law.

Maybe impeaching Trump is politically risky. Maybe it will fail. Maybe it will help his chances of being reelected.

But consequences and politics be damned, we have an obligation to protect American democracy from this malignancy.

History will remember Trump as a self-serving, amoral crook. It will remember his administration as a den of vipers feeding at the public trough. It will remember his supporters as frightened, gullible stooges.

History will revile us, too, if we don’t hold Trump accountable.

The solution to the problem isn’t complicated. Just do the right thing.

Impeach

 

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On the website of the magazine Psychology Today, I found a pretty good definition of psychoanalysis. It’s a bit intricate, but you can handle it.

Freud pioneered the idea that unconscious forces influence overt behavior and personality. He believed that childhood events and unconscious conflict, often pertaining to sexual urges and aggression, shape a person’s experience in adulthood.

Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis created the framework for psychoanalytic therapy, a deep, individualized form of talk therapy. Psychoanalytic therapy encompasses an open conversation that aims to uncover ideas and memories long buried in the unconscious mind.

Psychoanalysts employ specific techniques, such as spontaneous word association, dream analysis, and transference analysis. Identifying patterns in the client’s speech and reactions can help the individual better understand their thoughts, behaviors, and relationships as a prelude to changing what is dysfunctional.

As the final sentence explains, the goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to help the patient understand the subconscious causes of dysfunctional behaviors in hopes of changing them.

A few decades ago, I spent a year in psychoanalysis. I met regularly with a psychiatrist, and we explored what makes me tick.

It was a unique and, in many ways, strange experience. All that effort and professional firepower focused solely on me, my thoughts, my beliefs. Having my innermost self under a microscope was surreal and a little spooky.

How I ended up seeing a shrink is an interesting story.

Deanna and I got divorced in 1989. I’ve mentioned the split occasionally on this blog, including here and here, but never in much detail.

I don’t intend to elaborate now, except to say that, when she handed me the divorce papers, a part of me was surprised, but another was not. There had been signs.

She and I began to have disagreements, but all along, I thought they were transient and fixable. I never believed they were significant enough to end the marriage.

Deanna saw it otherwise. It’s a fact that the only person you can understand with even remote accuracy is yourself. And even that is an iffy proposition.

Several years before the divorce, she expressed an interest in seeing a therapist. I took it as a positive thing. If issues are bugging you, it’s good to try to understand and deal with them. She ended up going to a psychiatrist affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.

Immediately, the doctor proposed seeing both of us, in separate sessions, to facilitate Deanna’s analysis. She said sessions with both marital partners is always advisable.

To be clear, I’m a believer. Freud had some nutty ideas, but his central belief that (1) experiences in childhood affect behaviors in adulthood, and (2) it pays to understand them — that makes sense to me. I certainly don’t object to the concept of therapy.

Nevertheless, I was hesitant. I felt no need to undergo analysis. I was confident no sinister, malignant demons lurked inside me. All my demons are minor and benign.

Further, there was the cost. For one patient, $70 or $80 per session was brutal. For two, it would be crippling.

On the other hand, two facts were clear. First, the doctor might be right that understanding me would help her understand Deanna. And second, if I declined, I would be seen as an obstacle and a villain.

I agreed to undergo analysis.

The sessions were casual and calm. No couch was involved. The doctor and I got along well, and, session by session, she went about the task of sizing me up.

At the same time, I got to know the doctor and her methods. Often, I could see where she was taking the conversation.

For example, she showed interest in how my dad was affected by his World War II experiences. (He was a bomber pilot, was shot down, became a POW.)

After the war, Dad suffered significant anxiety and flashback problems. He struggled with PTSD for many years until, late in life, he finally fought it to a truce.

The doctor wanted to understand how Dad’s condition affected the rest of the family, and me in particular, which I freely admit it did. It was the topic we spent the most time talking about.

In those days, Deanna was a stay-at-home mom. My modest salary sustained us. Under those circumstances, the cost of therapy was a significant financial burden.

To her credit, the doctor arranged a generous payment schedule that I could manage.

And ultimately, also to her credit, she announced that she had seen enough. She said continuing my therapy sessions was not worth the time and expense. We were done.

In effect, she concluded I was acceptably normal and stable and did not require her services. It was a veritable thumbs-up for my mental health, a seal of approval from a professional. I was shrink-certified.

I wasn’t surprised. And it was supremely satisfying.

Mic drop

I don’t recall how long Deanna continued therapy. I never learned anything about her sessions, whether they were fruitful, or how they ended. I never asked.

But I well remember sending checks to the doctor every month, slowly paying down the tab.

Then one day, long after Deanna’s therapy ended, a letter arrived from the doctor.

She informed me that a fire had swept through her office building, and many financial records had been destroyed, mine among them.

She and her accountant decided to declare my debt absolved. Roughly $1,000 was being forgiven and, I assume, written off on her taxes.

I mean no disrespect to Freud or his disciples, but that gesture did more for my mental health than all of the therapy sessions combined.

Lucy

Freud-S

 

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Demagoguery

Not long after Donald Trump became President (I pause to choke back the bile), he hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office.

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No surprise there. Jackson, the seventh President, was a decidedly Trump-like guy. As history shows, he was as deplorable, personally and professionally, as Donald himself.

“Old Hickory” was a self-proclaimed People’s President. He railed against political elites and the establishment. He was vain, arrogant, egotistical, and perpetually angry.

Trump (“Old Bone Spur”) denigrates immigrants and minorities to keep his looney tunes supporters in a lather. Jackson, once a slave trader by profession, vilified Native Americans and confiscated their land to gain the support of European whites coming to America.

The fact is, most Americans of Jackson’s time were okay with systematically removing the tribes and taking their land. It was our “Manifest Destiny.” People admired Jackson for what became known as “rugged individualism.”

With the exception of Donald Trump (“Old Grab ‘Em”), no American President has been a total loser, with a record of all negatives and no positives (“Old Zero”). Jackson was as odious and contemptible as Trump, but still competent as a soldier and politician.

Further, unlike Trump, Jackson was a patriotic American. If Jackson were here today, he would be outraged over Trump’s traitorous collaboration with Russia and kowtowing to Putin. He probably would challenge Trump to a duel.

Jackson beats Trump easily in the competence department, but it is undeniable that a pall of hatefulness and cruelty hangs over his life and career.

(I was referring to Jackson, but okay, Trump too.)

The Slave Trade

Andrew Jackson was born in 1767 to a poor Scotch-Irish family on the border between North and South Carolina (both states claim him). As a young man, he became wealthy as a slave trader. He specialized in purchasing slaves in the upper South and selling them at a profit to the plantations of the lower South.

In 1804, Jackson purchased The Hermitage, a large Nashville cotton plantation that, of course, relied on slave labor. When he bought the property, he owned nine slaves. As he acquired more land, he procured more slaves. By 1829, he owned about 100. By the time he died, he owned 150.

Records show that Jackson beat his slaves regularly. He once had a woman whipped in public for “putting on airs.” Also on record are newspaper ads Jackson placed seeking the return of runaway slaves.

One ad offered an extra $10 for every 100 lashes administered to a 30-year-old runaway named Tom, should he be found. In other words, Jackson offered extra money to have the man killed.

The Native Problem

Jackson was equally harsh with Native Americans. As a major general during the War of 1812, he led a lengthy campaign in Alabama against rebellious Creeks (the Creek War, 1813-14).

The Creek Nation was divided. Many believed resisting the U.S. was futile, but hardliners known as “Red Sticks” allied themselves with the British and fought American expansion.

Jackson defeated the Red Stick faction in 1814 and, citing national security, proceeded to confiscate the land of all Creeks without exception, Red Stick or otherwise.

He became a national hero in 1815 when he led American forces to victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans.

In 1817, supposedly without orders from his superiors, Jackson led his forces in an invasion of Florida, which was under Spanish control. His pretext: the Seminoles were giving refuge to escaped slaves. He captured several Spanish forts and claimed the surrounding territory for the United States.

The Spanish government strongly objected, and many in Congress wanted Jackson to be censured. But the hubbub soon died down, and the U.S. acquired Florida in 1821.

In 1824, Jackson ran for President, but lost to John Quincy Adams. In 1828, he ran against incumbent Adams and won.

The Removal

1828 also was the year gold was discovered in Georgia, much of it on tribal land. That discovery sealed the fate of the tribes in the Southeast. Congress immediately drafted the Indian Removal Act, which Jackson signed in 1830.

Under the act, 46,000 people of the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole nations were removed from their homelands. Most were force-marched 1,000 miles to Oklahoma. At least 6,000 died of exposure, starvation, and disease.

After the removal, the United States turned over about 25 million acres of confiscated Native American land to white settlers. It was a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.

According to Jackson, the removal was fitting and proper. He said this in a speech to Congress in 1833:

That those tribes cannot exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement, which are essential to any favorable change in their condition.

Established in the midst of another and superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.

“Alarmed at the Prospect”

Jackson was popular among the common folk, but many of his political contemporaries were concerned about his extremism. During the 1824 election, Thomas Jefferson expressed his misgivings in a letter to Daniel Webster:

I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President. He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place. He has had very little respect for laws and constitutions, and is, in fact, an able military chief.

His passions are terrible. When I was President of the Senate, he was Senator; and he could never speak on account of the rashness of his feelings. I have seen him attempt it repeatedly, and as often choke with rage. His passions are, no doubt, cooler now; he has been much tried since I knew him, but he is a dangerous man.

During his term as President, Jackson opposed efforts to outlaw slavery in the western territories. He also banned the distribution in the southern states of printed material opposing slavery. He said the abolitionists spreading the material were monsters who should “atone for this wicked attempt with their lives.”

100 Duels

A biographer quoted Jackson as saying, “I was born for a storm, and a calm does not suit me.” As evidence of that, Jackson challenged more than 100 men to a duel.

In Jackson’s time, most duels were a show of bravado and bluster that resulted in no bloodshed, although deaths and wounds certainly occurred. But Jackson did kill one man, Charles Dickinson, a rival plantation owner with whom he had feuded for years.

Allowing Dickinson to shoot first, Jackson suffered a serious chest wound. But he stayed on his feet, took careful aim, and returned fire. Dickinson was mortally wounded.

The Death of Rachel Jackson

If being in a constant state of rage was Jackson’s default condition, the death of his wife Rachel in 1828 certainly amplified it.

The elections of 1824 and 1828 were especially nasty on both sides. Adams supporters liberally publicized Jackson’s unsavory record as a slave trader. The Adams campaign accused Jackson of cannibalizing enemy corpses, called his mother a common prostitute, and claimed his father was a mulatto.

Further, Rachel was attacked as a bigamist based on questions about the legality of her divorce from her first husband. An introverted person, she struggled to hold up under the stress of the campaigns.

Shortly after Jackson was elected President, but before he took office, Rachel began having sharp, recurring pains in her arm and shoulder. They were symptoms of a heart attack that killed her a few days later.

Reportedly, when the undertaker came to prepare Rachel for burial, aides had to pull the grief-stricken Jackson from her body.

Jackson blamed his political opponents for hastening Rachel’s death. At her funeral at The Hermitage on Christmas Eve, he told the mourners, “May God Almighty forgive her murderers. I never can.”

Rachel Jackson

Rachel in 1823.

Lack of Reverence

Some years earlier, Jackson had given Rachel a parrot named Poll. Poll was an African Grey Parrot, an intelligent bird noted for its ability to learn words and mimic sounds. They lack vocal chords, but create sounds by controlling the air they exhale.

After Rachel died, Poll became Jackson’s pet and companion. Poll was said to have an extensive vocabulary.

Jackson served two terms as President and retired to The Hermitage in 1837. He remained influential in national politics, but his health steadily declined. He died in 1845 of heart failure and other ailments.

Poll attended his master’s funeral, but only briefly. Reverend William Norment, the clergyman who presided at the funeral, later wrote:

Before the sermon and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people and had to be carried from the house.

Norment said the parrot “let loose perfect gusts of cuss words” that left people “horrified and awed at the bird’s lack of reverence.”

I wonder whether Poll learned his pottymouth ways from Rachel or Andrew.

African Grey Parrot

A male African Grey Parrot.

Understandably, the word “demagogue” came to mind as I was writing this post. The website Vocabulary.com defines the word thusly:

Demagogue — A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular passions and prejudices.

The website’s definition of the word “demagoguery” is masterful.

Demagoguery is a manipulative approach — often associated with dictators and sleazy politicians — that appeals to the worst nature of people. Demagoguery isn’t based on reason, issues, and doing the right thing; it’s based on stirring up fear and hatred to control people. For example, a politician who stirs up a fear of immigrants to distract from other issues is using demagoguery. Demagoguery is one of the most negative aspects of politics, but it’s also one that’s all too common.

Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump: two demagogues at the top of their game.

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(Note: I chose “We Will Rock You” as a Tune o’ the Day because I heard a toddler belting it out in the Jefferson Kroger recently. That kid, he rocked.)

After a concert in 1977, guitarist Brian May of Queen wondered what audiences can do in confined spaces to express themselves. He concluded “They can clap their hands, they can stomp their feet, and they can sing.”

May decided Queen needed a song, something simple and catchy and rousing, that would cause audiences to get involved.

He said he woke up the next morning with the idea for “We Will Rock You” in his head, including the famous STOMP-STOMP-CLAP beat.

The song’s lyrics are a “three ages of man” story. In the first stanza, a boy on the streets dreams of a better life. In the second stanza, as a young man, he still struggles to make something of himself. In the third, he is a defeated old man whose life went nowhere.

(I tried to figure out what the energetic “we will rock you” chorus has to do with the three verses, but I gave up.)

Queen recorded the song in an empty London church because the band liked the acoustics. May said he found some old boards under the stairs that “just seemed ideal to stomp on.”

The stomping was done separately in a studio as the band, the staff, and the recording engineers all joined in to create and record the distinctive STOMP-STOMP-CLAP. No actual drums were used.

Creating a classic rock anthem is a lot of work.

Queen

We Will Rock You

By Queen, 1977
Written by Brian May

Buddy, you’re a boy,
Make a big noise,
Playing in the street,
Gonna be a big man someday.

You got mud on your face, You big disgrace,
Kickin’ your can all over the place, singin’

We will, we will rock you.
We will, we will rock you.

Buddy, you’re a young man,
Hard man,
Shouting in the street,
Gonna take on the world someday.

You got blood on your face, you big disgrace,
Waving your banner all over the place.

We will, we will rock you.
Sing it!
We will, we will rock you.

Buddy, you’re an old man,
Poor man,
Pleading with your eyes,
Gonna make you some peace someday.

You got mud on your face, big disgrace,
Somebody better put you back into your place.

We will, we will rock you.
Sing it!
We will, we will rock you.
Everybody!
We will, we will rock you.
Hmm
We will, we will rock you.

Alright.

 

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