Even under siege, Trump continues to dismantle the world we had thought we lived in.

Those of you lamenting the fact that Trump’s America seems to be wandering about alone in the world without direction, without friends, without allies… rejoice! At the recent climate talks in Poland, America proved we could play nice with others—as long as the others are Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

Together these four nations issued a statement agreeing to “note” but not “welcome” the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which placed a 2030 deadline on nations to cut fossil fuel use in order to forgo many climate dangers. Oh yes, and they officially thanked the scientists for their work before opting to ignore them.

The three countries who joined with us are major exporters of oil and gas, and their criterion were quite simple: no outside report should detract from a nations’s rights to economic stability. (Other manifestations of stability do not count.)

At pretty much the same time, Trump is preparing to alter wetlands conservation rules initiated by Bush 41. It will “help” farmers by allowing them to use pesticides that may run off into streams and rivers without actually worrying that their pesticides will run off into streams and rivers. Phew, what a relief for former worriers..

And a new report states that the Arctic, between 2014 and the present, is warmer than at any time in the modern era.

Individual states and municipalities continue to fight Trump—to buffer his attacks on clean air and water by legislating on the local level. But until he’s out of the White House, any inroads we made during the past decade of awareness will be lost on this incumbency of ignorance. Most have already been lost.

We look at the Mueller investigation and pray for punishable offenses, hoping for a resignation or impeachment. But the damage Trump is doing to the earth, to our health, and to our safety—though it breaks no rules—will do more harm for a longer period than any payoff to a prostitute, profits from a hotel, or collusion with an enemy.

We can’t complain about the gas prices, but should we?

Earlier this week I spoke of impeachment as no longer off my table. My table doesn’t count for much, but I do have one, and it’s becoming more crowded.

I also spoke of a constitutional crisis and offered the suggestion that we were already immersed in one. Since then we have seen our democratic principles shattered in Wisconsin where the last vestiges of a Republican state senate have stripped the new, fairly-won Democratic leadership of most of its authority. The lame-duck Republicans have also worked to gainsay specific decisions by the voters regarding health insurance, thereby directly denying the legitimate vote of the citizenry. In a democratic society, how’s that for a Constitutional Crisis? 

Michigan seems headed down a similar path, and North Carolina may be facing the aftermath of an election so tainted as to be completely illegitimate.

(This holiday season, come to the Carolinas—and vote again!)

In the midst of all this, we continue down several other bad roads. Yesterday we read of a new environmental report comparing the accelerating growth of carbon dioxide emissions to “a speeding freight train.” And it isn’t just our favorite whipping boy coal: oil demand and usage have risen dramatically, the demand for larger cars, SUVs, and pick-ups has mushroomed, and our general response has been, “hey, how about those great gas prices—field trip!” Even TV advertising has underscored the old concept of seeing the USA by automobile.

We can be better than this—more aware, more far-sighted. No offense to owners of larger vehicles—my cars have grown larger as I’ve grown older—but I’d rather we do what 20th-century man was learning to do:  complain about high gas prices and use less. Twenty-first-century man seems to be falling backwards towards a 1950’s mentality underscored in that old black-and-white commercial. (Maybe for some that’s making America great again.) And while I don’t want to see angry mobs defacing public monuments as has recently occurred in France due to six-dollar-a-gallon gas prices, we can’t keep paying a mere $2.50 a gallon and hope that restraint will just happen, not when drilling in the Alaskan wilderness looms.

And we certainly cannot rely on an administration beholden to “big oil” to champion conservation. Some responsibilities are ours.

Impeachment may be the only way to avoid a constitutional crisis.

There’s a widespread belief that, once the Democrats take control of the House, the worst thing they could do is initiate impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. It would cause, some say, a constitutional crisis.

I was drinking that Kool-Aid for a while. I’m no longer thirsty.

Democrats, have at it!

First off, the fear of a constitutional crisis no longer means anything: we’re in the midst of one every day. Take, for instance, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This is not some normal news item that we listen to and then move on. Khashoggi was butchered in front of witnesses; yet the Trump White House continues to do everything imaginable to bury the story and to preserve our economic relations with the morally vacuous plutocratic leadership of Saudi Arabia. 

Last week John Bolton said he wouldn’t listen to the purported recording of Khashoggi’s murder because he didn’t understand Arabic. Now if this had been a line from The Simpsons, we’d have all had a good laugh. But it wasn’t.

Then CIA Director Gina Haspel, who is privy to the intelligence report charging the Saudi royal family with the murder, was asked not to attend the Senate briefing on the topic. And Mike Pompeo, whose last shreds of self-respect are rapidly dissolving in the White House cesspool, answered reporters’ questions about Trump’s abdication of responsibility by smiling goofily and saying, at least twice, “I was asked to be here, and here I am.” 

Pompeo, and even the formerly somewhat respectable four-star general Jim Mattis, have thrown their weight behind Trump and his assertion that Saudi money supersedes the life of a reporter—not a surprise considering Trump’s disdain for the press and this country’s continuing to wink at the slaughter of innocents in Yemen. 

When institutions fail, we have a constitutional crisis. We don’t need soldiers in the streets or bread lines or mass incarceration—all we need is a government that no longer functions or a president who goes his own way without regard to the rule of law as laid out in the Constitution. Of course it’s more complex than that, but we can all see where this is headed.

At this point an impeachment might forestall rather than induce a constitutional crisis.

Maybe it’s time to find out.

How many lumps of coal in how many stockings will slow down this environmental disaster?

It would be difficult to find a weekend that brought more dire environmental news than the past one. And we probably could not have expected anything more given the natural calamities the world has faced over the past few months, from the floods in Venice, to the hurricane winds on Florida’s panhandle, to the deadly fires in California.

This past weekend the Trump White House released an extensive and authoritative report on our worsening climate, predicting century-long losses in the hundreds of billion of dollars to the world economy, a good share of which will be borne by Americans. I point out that last fact not because we’re better than the rest of the world, but because Trump’s avowed America First philosophy will not save the American farmers whose crops are destroyed by endless droughts, the American ranchers whose herds cannot be sustained because of water shortages, or any American dependent upon food and water. Unless The Walking Dead is a documentary, that’s all of us.

The Trump White House will bury the report—the president has already said he doesn’t believe it—but neither that report nor its interment constitute the worst news of the weekend. That honor goes to a New York Times story about the energy source we thought was on the way out until resurrected by the president. If you guessed coal, you win! Then you lose.

In short, coal is dirty, and when burned constitutes the worst of the fossil fuels. But it’s abundant and, most of all, it’s cheap. In Asia (especially India and Vietnam, but China also) people in outlying areas for whom electrical power was always a crapshoot can now flip a switch and know their wells will work, or their fans will spin, or their factories will hum. Power from coal has changed their lives. It’s hard to reproach them.

And coal is political—in Germany, Poland, even Australia, right wing leaders play on the importance of coal mining as good honest labor. New mines are promised; new coal-fired plants are constructed.

Even a decade ago this drift away from clean energy seemed unimaginable, but here we are; and in America we have a leader fabricating the resurgence of coal while clean energy costs drop around him.

That White House report on our worsening climate may turn out to be, in the end, optimistic. We seem to have learned little from climate scientists and from our own observations; and America—which despite the ongoing idiocy of the president is still held in high esteem globally, has instead of setting an example and a goal for other countries to achieve, officially sanctioned the one fuel that can speed our own demise.

If you guessed coal, you win! And then….

The day the New England Patriots were coming to Hartford (and the thousands of succeeding days when they weren’t)

Former Connecticut governor John Rowland’s basic claim to infamy will be his resignation and prison time, but it was twenty years ago that he was involved with another fiasco—the master plan to move the New England Patriots to Hartford.

Yes, that Hartford. In Connecticut.

Even the thought of it created more excitement in our state than any event since 1961. That’s when Troy Donahue came to Old Saybrook to film Parrish. No one under ninety will get that reference, but trust me, it happened.

The other mastermind behind the Patriots’ move was Robert Kraft, the team owner. But his masterful mind was more masterful than Rowland’s; in fact, all Kraft did was blackmail Massachusetts into building him a new stadium. We were left with the Whalers…well, their memorabilia. Pucky the Whale had relocated to North Carolina the year before.

The Patriots non-move was a masterful screwing by an amoral organization, or what we now call business acumen.

But even that pales by comparison with Jeff Bezos’s decision to open his new Amazon headquarters in two locations: New York and Washington, this after luring 238 cities to submit bids on what they would do for Jeff Bezos. (Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, Danbury and New Haven/Bridgeport also played.)

Bezos is worth north of $150 billion.

Let that sink in. I can present all kinds of examples of what that means, like if you have 750,000 Facebook friends, you can buy each of them a Mercedes-Maybach S 650 (see photo). I don’t begrudge him his money. But for him to demand tax breaks from his new city-victims is beyond unconscionable.

Just over $200,000. I sprung for the phone holder.

Now some say building in New York will finally improve the City’s transportation systems and other infrastructure problems, even improve its schools. Those would all be positive steps, but the more than $2-billion-tax incentives should have gone the other way, from Bezos to the cities themselves. And one of New York’s increasingly dire problems, affordable housing, seems destined only to worsen when Bezos provides low-paying jobs for people who cannot afford to live within twenty-five miles of the headquarters.

The holidays approach, and how I get through them without Amazon is beyond me. Worse, a boycott of the company or a suspension of my Washington Post subscription (Bezos owns that paper) hurts only the people at the bottom of the pyramid—the ones who eke out a living sorting packages or delivering newsprint.

John Rowland—and by extension—every resident of Connecticut was snookered real good twenty years ago. Today we have a lot of company.

The cult of toxic personality

Last week we elected a Democratic governor in Connecticut, a decent guy whose vision for the future is either muddled or non-existent. He defeated another decent guy, whose vision for the state, he said, would be different from the first guy’s. I’m not sure how we would ever know. It was all very confusing and silly.

The winner, Ned Lamont, asked for unity. The loser, Bob Stefanowski should have asked himself why in the world he ever attached his name to anything Trump. Even though Connecticut is a blue state, we were ripe for the reddening, especially since our current governor had been masquerading as the invisible man for the entire election—his policies indefensible even by the Democrats. But once Stefanowski aligned himself with the president—referring to Trump’s financial genius—he dug the first spadeful of dirt from his grave.

Somehow Stefanowski forgot the president’s catalog of bankruptcies, desperate searches for financial assistance, and his refusal to reveal his tax returns which, according to most observers, will expose the sources of that assistance to have come from Russia.

But that last piece is conjecture: In this state Trump himself was the poison, and as we get further from last Tuesday’s elections, we’re beginning to understand the scope of the Trumpian disaster for Republicans nationwide. On that first night we thought it was a wash: one party for the Senate, one for the House. But down-ticket winners are everywhere. Seven governorships flipped to the Democrats, and state legislatures will have a decidedly blue (or at least purple) tinge for the next two years. Sinema’s win in Arizona is huge.

Face it: Trump is poison. All things being equal in Connecticut, Bob Stefanowski should have won. But even though the candidate openly disavowed almost every facet of the president’s persona and his personal foibles, it was too late.

Now the political conversation is turning to whom the Democrats will put up for the presidency in 2020. Let everyone take a lesson from Connecticut: Trump’s role in the race may be more significant than his opponent’s résumé.

So stop watching those Trump rallies and marveling at the man’s popularity. It’s an illusion. The noise, the placards, the idolatry, the race-baiting, the condescension, and the idiocy disguised as enthusiasm sometimes lead us to believe that his cult represents a huge cross-section of Americans.It doesn’t.  Last Tuesday in Connecticut—and in virtually every other state—we learned that. It’s a lesson worth hanging onto.

Tweeting ignorance: it’s an art the president has mastered.

I don’t subscribe to the president’s Twitter feed for the same reason I don’t record the observations of infants at day care centers. They might murmur something cute once in a while, but most of it is indecipherable and not noteworthy.

So it is with the president.

But every once in a while he, unlike the infants, says something so abysmally stupid that everybody hears about it, and because he is both ignorant and unrepentant, it stays in circulation.

Last Friday before he left for Paris to further contest Green Day for the copyright on American Idiot, he commented on the fires in California:

Trump tweet

I have often referred to the president as tone-deaf. It’s not exactly complimentary, but it does relieve him of some responsibility for what otherwise might be considered meanness and vindictiveness.

I was too kind. We all were. There is a streak, a very wide streak of meanness and vindictiveness—of general malevolence—that not only surrounds him but actually defines him. That anyone could witness the devastation of those fires, the tens of thousands of homes destroyed, the hundreds of thousands of lives shattered, and the death toll that rises hourly (now approaching 30, with hundreds unaccounted for—that anyone could witness all that and blame the victims signifies a mind not merely warped but manifestly deranged.

One can easily imagine the president blaming Katrina victims for living in low-lying areas and 9/11 casualties for working in buildings that were too tall. He has already blamed shooting victims for not being armed and returning fire. His facile view of life’s complexities is usually laughable,  but today it’s detestable.

In another less inflammatory tweet the president said “Our hearts are with those fighting the fires … The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.”

Yes, God bless these courageous men and women. But again, no words for the victims. A tweet like that would require empathy: no disrespect to infants, but you’re as likely to find empathy among the babies in the day care center as you are in the White House.

Early observations from the lookout tower—Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It’s 10:59 a.m on the day after and, so far, no Democrat mobs have been rampaging through the streets.

It could be the worst of them are hungover from a night of celebrating the annoying of the president, or maybe they’re just gathering their sticks and torches for a concerted effort later.

Or maybe the president was lying to us when he warned that a Democrat House victory meant rioting, immigrant incursions, a market collapse, and an alien invasion when the Space Force is nowhere near ready!

But as of now, things are pretty quiet.

lookout tower
When the Democrat mobs show up, I’ll know before anybody else.

In truth, not much has changed since yesterday other than the fact that those of us crying out in the darkness have been endowed with lights; and our anger and frustration—which usually get no further than a blog or a tweet—will reach the House of Representatives where others will repeat and echo them. We’ll be, if nothing else, less alone.

But our despicable president will remain in power and continue to nettle us and embarrass us with his relentless mendacity. And remember, he’s no farther away from the nuclear football than he was yesterday. But at least there’ll be some restraints, and the spineless legislators who have turned a blind eye to every malfeasant act for the past two years will at least know that someone is not merely blogging or tweeting…but watching.

And, of course, we live in the same America.

This America:

In Chapmanville, W.Va., a hardware store worker, Chance Bradley, said he was voting Republican because Mr. Trump had made him “feel like an American again.” But Carl Blevins, a retired coal miner, voted Democratic and said he didn’t understand how anybody could support Mr. Trump “or, for that matter, the Republican candidate for Senate there, Patrick Morrisey, who went on to lose to Senator Joe Manchin.

“I think they put something in the water,” Blevins said.

Yes, that America. 

So there’s a lot to be done, but if we can keep the Democrat mobs from torching our villages and pillaging our crops, we just might make it work.

“That’s why I voted for Trump” and other sad truths from the other side

While waiting for an oil change yesterday, I was privy to a conversation, one that occurred between people who aren’t, shall we say, part of my political spectrum. I really didn’t pay any particular attention until, at the end of a stream of disjointed and unproven observations, one participant said “That’s why I voted for Trump.”

He was a middle-aged black man, and I never learned whether he was a customer or a worker. I do know that in Trump’s world he would have been, by virtue of his skin color, unqualified to run for office (e.g. Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum), and yet….

Today he will vote for Bob Stefanowski, a Trump acolyte.

This middle-aged black man, who seemed apolitical and genuinely concerned about his civic duty, provided another wake-up call: Trump’s message, and on a local level Bob Stefanowski’s message, are getting through. The other man in the conversation, white and probably about the same age, cited job growth and Connecticut’s taxes. He did not say he was voting for Stefanowski, but he will. And if he didn’t vote for Trump two years ago, I’d be shocked.

For both of them the messages got through because they were clear and simple: Trump has created jobs; Stefanowski will cut taxes.

There’s no denying that Trump’s imagined immigrant crisis is having its effect, nor would it make sense to discount the efforts and enthusiasm of the pro-life contingent; but the simplest issues resonate. Neither man seemed interested in the proliferation of greenhouse gases or the Saudi genocide in Yemen. They may not have liked the separation of immigrant children from their mothers, but they wouldn’t be thinking about that in the voting booth. 

Coincidentally, the TV was on at the time, and shortly after the conversation ended, a Bob Stefanowski ad played—the one where he promises to cut taxes and bring back jobs. Anyone can say that: the trick is doing so without eviscerating the services that provide a decent quality of life for the greatest number of people. Beyond the soundbites, government is difficult. Unfortunately, we live in a sphere of soundbites.

“Make America Great Again.” Simple. Easy to remember. Abbreviate it and it fits on a hat. Say it often enough and people begin to believe it. Just don’t mention that the “great” America of Trump’s recollection was straight and white, church-going and English speaking. We don’t live in that country anymore, and neither do the 42 million black citizens, the 119 million Hispanics, the 250 million who don’t attend church regularly, and the some 15 million who identify as LGBTQ. Still, it’s mindlessly optimistic to believe that many of those millions will not vote for the Trump candidate today.

Yes the Democrats are emphasizing health care, a noble and vital cause, but “When You Have Your Health You Have Everything” doesn’t fit on a hat. Nor does WYHYHYHE resonate (though we may hear a sound like that from many Democrats if today goes sideways).

I was slightly more optimistic about the elections before that chance encounter. I still have hope of course, but even in this state where we progressives are usually blasé about voting because we always win, there’s a very good chance that the simplicity of the opposing message, and voters’ unwillingness or inability to parse it, may defeat us: the complexity of the issues may do us in, regardless of race, creed, or anything else.

We can slow down the crazy train on Tuesday, or continue off the rails. Your call.

Let’s realize something: from 2009 to 2016 people like me lived in our own little sphere. After all, we’d elected the president we wanted and watched that 2008 love fest in Grant Park when we, once and for all, squelched the idea that a black man could not be president and that there was even a scintilla of racism left in the country. All was pretty much right with the world.

But long about 2010 with the growth of the Tea Party, we began to sense there was another side to the issue—that the “bad people” didn’t like Obama. The bad people weren’t all racists, though there was a well-defined racial and concomitant economic factor to the hatred. Still, we didn’t care. And when Obama was reelected 2012, we cared even less.

It took the bad people eight years actually to get rid of their nemesis, but remember, it took only two years to cripple him. That’s worth remembering.

We’re not going to get rid of Donald Trump next Tuesday—or for many Tuesdays after that—but we can cripple him the way the Tea Party diminished the governing abilities of President Obama. We can help create some oversight to keep Trump and his toadies from running roughshod over our basic human rights and the laws of the land. We can put the brakes on, and though we may not stop this off-the-rails crazy train, we can slow it down.

We can defend Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, retard the rush toward more carbon and methane pollution, save a few coral reefs and a national park or two, make life tenable for the LGBTQ community, reunite immigrant children with their parents, relegate white supremacists to the fringes from which they came, and even secure voting rights for the millions Trump wants to disenfranchise.

That can all be done on Tuesday.

Of course when we wake up next Wednesday morning, Trump will still be in the White House tweeting, and he’ll be infuriating us with some asininity about the election. It won’t be over by a long shot. But letting him know that we’re still actively involved in the governing of this nation will at least remind him of the root of the word democracy, and of the fact that the cult of personality does not extend to people who can see through it.

My wife and I have this election-day tradition—we vote early, then go out for breakfast. It isn’t very complex. In 2016 we followed the plan and wound up in a very nice place in a neighboring town. That evening the results came in: we haven’t been back since. Not to worry, the breakfast joint is doing fine without us, and will again this Tuesday when we’re eating somewhere else. We just can’t risk it again.