The grown-ups in the Senate have abdicated their duty and their humanity for the almighty vote.


The House of Representatives has always been the fraternity house of the legislative branch; the Senate, the more staid and serious quiet dorm.

There is a seriousness of purpose in the Senate, maybe an exclusivity. There are only one-hundred senators, compared to 435 House members. That means one out of every 3.5 million Americans is a senator, but a whopping one out of only 805,000 Americans owns a House seat. No wonder House members have so little self-esteem.

My math may be sketchy—in fact it’s probably wrong—but my point is not. The Senate is an exclusive group and, regardless of our political leanings, it has always been a point of pride in this nation.

So I want to know this: how do the Republican senators who either support or refuse to rebuke Donald Trump face one of their own after the president has attacked her personally. How do they pass Elizabeth Warren in the hallways and corridors of Congress and not feel some sense of shame? How do members of this putatively exclusive “club” allow one of their own to be assailed by a tinpot despot who has never served—and never will serve—anyone but himself? This group of one-hundred has opted for public service; how do they countenance attacks like this on one of their own?

Lest you get the wrong idea, I’m not a fan of Elizabeth Warren. I think that, like many others, she tries to do the right thing most of the time. And like most other politicians, there’s a lot of ego mixed in with her visions. But that fact does not excuse the blind eye of her colleagues.

She, John McCain, countless others others have done what Donald Trump has never done and cannot even fathom: they have served their country. Trump will never give these people respect because he cannot comprehend their choice, but for their own colleagues to turn their backs diminishes, maybe even shatters, the good name of the Senate.

We “get” the House routine: a few kegs on a Saturday night and a Sunday to sleep it off. But one Animal House is sufficient. The grown-ups in the Senate owe it to the voters who put them there to do what’s right—to salvage their self-respect—to make us proud.

 

 

The retreat of humanity is in full force, and America is not alone in its concession.

Starting at the age of 1, “ghetto children” must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in traditional values, including Christmas and Easter.

Another proposal allows courts to double the punishment for certain crimes based on income, employment status, education levels, number of criminal convictions and non-Western background.

Another imposes a four-year prison sentence on immigrant parents who force their children to make extended visits to their country of origin.

Another allows local authorities to increase their monitoring and surveillance of impoverished families.


New executive orders from our idiot president?

No. All part of a new “ghetto package” in, of all places, Denmark. Most of the proposals have already been accepted: more are coming.

These restrictions do not specifically single out Muslims living in that country; in fact, specific religious groups are not mentioned at all. Instead the word “ghetto” is sprinkled liberally throughout the new strictures, the point being that the poorer people are more likely to retreat into their own culture and not become “good Danes.”

(Even so, a recent Facebook post railed against a supermarket for selling a cake reading “Eid Mubarak,” for the Muslim holiday of Eid. Cakes are becoming the canary in the coal mine for prejudice and bigotry these days.)

According to some observers, the Danes seem comfortable with the word ghetto because it has no intrinsic religious overtones. For a country occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, their amnesia seems particularly astonishing.

One Danish family, children of Lebanese refugees who speak Danish without an accent and sometimes complain that, because they speak so little Arabic they can barely communicate with their grandparents, is subject to the new rules. They had always felt comfortable in Denmark, they said; now they wonder if this feeling was always there and is just now coming to the surface.

(Danish Muslims are Danes in every sense of the word-following all the nations rules. “We don’t eat pork,” one of them said, citing the only concession to his faith.)

Of Denmark’s 5.7 million people, 87% are of Danish descent. Two-thirds of the rest are from Muslim backgrounds. No one is disputing the abysmal poverty in the so-called ghettos, but one would expect a solution to be more prescriptive than punitive. That does not seem to be the way—not in Denmark; not in America.

All around us we are watching humanity retreat, led by—but not restricted to—myopic nationalists like Donald Trump. I would expect a tweet from the president soon, complimenting the Danes on their modern-day “final solution.” It’s unlikely he’ll grasp the implication of that phrase in history (of which he knows nothing) or its perversion of humanity (of which, again, he knows nothing.)

It’s not unfair to mention Trump and the Capital Gazette shootings in the same breath.

Jarrod Ramos, the who strode into the office of the Capital Gazette and, in cold blood, shot five staffers on that newspaper, was not working under the direct command of Donald Trump. Ramos began his reign of abuse and threatening long before Trump became president.

It’s important to note that. It’s a fact.

It’s important also to note that Trump doesn’t care if journalists are killed. That’s an opinion. Based on fact. He has, after all, declared journalists the enemy of the people and more than once riled his followers into chants of “lock them up.” It was within this charged atmosphere that Ramos seethed, plotted, and ultimately strode into a newspaper office last Thursday, bearing a shotgun, ready for mayhem.

Trump doesn’t care. That’s an opinion, again based on fact, to wit statements he issued afterwards:

1) “I’d like to address the horrific shooting that took place yesterday at Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs. To the families of the victims there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event. Horrible thing happened.”

2) “When you’re suffering, we pledge our eternal support, the suffering is so great, I’ve seen some of the people, so great. My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. So our warmest best wishes and regrets. A horrific and horrible thing.”

Warmest best wishes and regrets? Horrible thing happened? More boilerplate BS from the master of the same.

I’m not attacking his inelegant language; God knows eloquence departed the Oval Office on the day Obama went home. But what disgusts me is Trump’s utter absence of empathy, his pivot away from an attack on American citizens to the problem of violent crime in general. It’s a plea for law enforcement, wrapped in a perfunctory message of condolence. It’s worse than BS: it’s detached self-interest.

There are no words? Yes there are. There are always words. For someone who once bragged that he knows “the best words,” he continually displays an alarming paucity of them.

If he did know words and felt some compassion, he would have delivered a message like this at the door of the Capital Gazette (less than 40 miles from the White House) on Thursday afternoon.

“Folks, I’ve portrayed the press as my enemy—our enemy—for years now. But that’s politics, and I never meant that any journalists should ever be harmed. From here on in I will demand respect for the reporters who cover the White House and cover my rallies. Our democracy depends on the free distribution of and access to news.

If he had said that or something like it and eschewed the “warmest best wishes” and the foolish repetition of “horrible” and “horrific,” I could have tolerated his lie about doing “everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”

But he didn’t. He doesn’t understand. Expecting empathy from Trump is like expecting the bear in The Revenant to have qualms, maybe come back and check on his victim from time to time. Even if it had lived long enough to do so, that bear thinks only of self-preservation.

That, unfortunately, Trump can probably empathize with.

Shakespeare saw Trump coming: why didn’t we?

We have Macduffs aplenty, but don’t have a Malcolm.

Bear with me Shakespeare haters—it’ll be worth it.

In Macbeth, the title character has risen to the position of King of Scotland by regicide, simpler -icides, and the institution of what amounts to a reign of terror. Along the way he has driven his wife mad and had his coronation banquet ruined by the ghost of one of his murder victims. Remember “Avaunt, and quit my sight!” Yeah, that ghost…that banquet.

Macduff, another Scottish nobleman, fed up with watching his homeland disintegrate, approaches Malcolm (lots of M’s, sorry), the rightful heir to Macbeth’s throne to try to put the country right. That’s important, because a simple rebellion would be, well, illegal, even against a maniacal leader. But Malcolm has legal claims, even though he has previously fled the country in fear.

So they meet.

Malcolm greets the angry and fed up Macduff with words to this effect: let’s have a beer or two and drown our sorrows at some tavern.

Macduff counters with something akin to: screw the beer, let’s get an army together and kick some ass.

Shakespeare said it differently—which is why, four hundred years later, he’s still a Jeopardy category and in 2418 I won’t be.

But the lesson should not be lost on us. The two of them don’t go off and drink themselves to oblivion. They raise an army, Macbeth is vanquished, and order is restored. It’s a lot messier and bloodier than that; it is, after all, Shakespeare.

America in 2018 finds itself in a similar situation, in the throes of a reign of terror speeding toward a plutocratic dictatorship where the middle class loses all possibility of improvement and their bosses accumulate untold wealth. Rights are being methodically stripped away as legislation is haphazardly proposed and often passed. The new Supreme Court will guarantee that the process continues.

I don’t want to cry in my beer—it seems we are doing a lot of that. The problem is, we have Macduffs aplenty, but don’t have a Malcolm. The Democrats have been unable to produce anyone who speaks for the party and around whom the party rallies—someone who can unify the disparate Democrats. Even when Obama was president, Republicans looked to McConnell for leadership. They had McCain and Hatch. We didn’t agree with these men, but they were visible: they were the opposition and we knew it.

Who is the Democratic opposition? Is it Elizabeth Warren? Cory Booker? Joe Biden? Gavin Newsom?

Without a modern-day Malcolm to step up—to focus our anger and energy and lead us on a path to salvage our country, we’re little more than a scattered group of toothless rebels on a liquid diet, and there’s not enough beer in the world to drown our sorrows.

June 26, 2018. Hitting bottom and still sinking

If we needed any final proof that the system of checks and balances was irretrievably lost, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on the so-called Muslim Travel Ban provided it; and it did so with a malevolence that is impossible to overlook. Ignoring years of Trump’s public execration of Islam and its followers and claiming that the ban does not violate religious freedom places the Gorsuch Court firmly in Trump’s pocket, and though the decision surprised no one, the cynicism renders the sycophancy almost preposterous.

Since November 2016 there have been many days where I was sure we had reached the bottom, or were close to it. Yesterday, however, may be proof that there is no bottom—that the idea of America is well into its death spiral, hastened by a collusive alliance among the three branches of government and sped along by an unwitting, petty, and ignorant populace hell-bent on making America great again and having absolutely no clue as to what those words even mean.

June 26, 2018 may be worth remembering. It was the day

•faith-based crisis pregnancy centers won a Supreme Court victory: they no longer have to advise women about free and low-cost abortions.

•on Staten Island Incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan who claims, in 2016, to have held his nose and voted for Trump but then recently went all-in on immigration and proposed a bill to require a portrait of Donald Trump in U.S. post offices, fought off a primary challenge and—behind Trump and Giuliani—won.

•the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave Trump a temporary but significant victory in his battle against sanctuary cities. The full bench of the appeals court will hear oral arguments over the scope of the injunction on Sept. 6, but most experts agree that the damage has been done.

•reports were released that claimed the United States is headed for historic debt—upwards of $20 trillion by 2034—as a direct result of the new tax laws and deficit spending. Look for continued cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance, Social Security—in short, any program that benefits the average American and that his tax dollars pay for.

One might take some solace in the fact that U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw gave the federal government thirty days to reunite migrant parents with children, declaring that said children had not even been treated as well or as carefully as property, and that due process had been ignored. But expect Jeff Sessions to hit back and turn this into another cause célebrè for the Trump White House, and expect to see more children unaccounted for and alone.

In November 2016, I expected the worst, or what I thought was the worst: economic collapse, a decrease in propriety, an ignoramus representing us on the world stage. But this was America—we’d overcome worse. If I’d had a little more imagination, I’d have been a little more ready for June 26, 2018, and I wouldn’t be quite so disheartened on June 27.

How much worse can it get?

It’s like the sadistic whose team scores a touchdown in the last seconds of a 63-0 rout, and you, the vanquished losing coach, rally what’s left of your meager dignity to confront him with his bad sportsmanship.

But then at the last minute, you change your mind. You don’t what to make things worse.

YOU’RE LOSING 63-0. HOW MUCH WORSE CAN IT GET?

Sorry for yelling, but maybe we should do more of it. How else do we respond to government-sanctioned sadism? To blatant cruelty? To legislative ineptitude?

Please read Michelle Goldberg’s op-ed piece. I invite your comments.