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Monday, August 19, 2019

Ttrump - TheTrue Liar

A master of the art at last . . . alas.

The following is an excerpt from, "The Decay of Lying: A Protest." By Oscar Wilde - 1889. So much has changed in these last years.

I should have thought that our politicians kept up that habit. I assure you that they do not. They never rise beyond the level of misrepresentation, and actually condescend to prove, to discuss, to argue. How different from the temper of the true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb responsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind! After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence.

If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once. No, the politicians won't do. Something may, perhaps, be urged on behalf of the Bar. The mantle of the Sophist has fallen on its members. Their feigned ardors and unreal rhetoric are delightful. They can make the worse appear the better cause, as though they were fresh from Leonine schools, and have been known to wrest from reluctant juries triumphant verdicts of acquittal for their clients, even when those clients, as often happens, were clearly and unmistakably innocent.

But they are briefed by the prosaic, and are not ashamed to appeal to precedent. In spite of their endeavors, the truth will out. Newspapers, even, have degenerated. They may now be absolutely relied upon. One feels it as one wades through their columns. It is always the unreadable that occurs. I am afraid that there is not much to be said in favor of either the lawyer or the journalist.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Cold Hard Facts

Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in the summer of 2015, there has been a string of false hopes placed in people and institutions that were supposedly going to bring him down—or at the very least mitigate his worst impulses: the Republican establishment, the delegates at the Republican convention, the Electoral College, GOP members of Congress, Trump’s cabinet using the 25th Amendment, and special counsel Robert Mueller. One by one, these supposed bulwarks against an authoritarian president have fallen by the wayside.

One of the most delusional fantasies was the idea that members of Trump’s administration, whether appointed officials or members of the permanent bureaucracy, would serve as a straitjacket. According to this argument, the adults in the room could be trusted to run rings around the easily distracted Trump. Bob Woodward’s best-selling exposé Fear was built around the idea of an “administrative coup” inside the White House. Trump himself seemed to buy into this idea, or at least find it an expedient foil, when he started warning about a “Deep State” conspiracy.

In September of 2018, The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed by a senior Trump administration official that stands as the locus classicus of the straitjacket fallacy. “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the unnamed official claimed. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.” He further asserted that “there is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first.”

The op-ed was long on assertion but weak on evidence. The only detailed example of defiance of Trump concerned Russia policy, a troubling example since the combination of Trump’s solicitude toward Vladimir Putin with a hard-line military posture is in fact very dangerous, since it sends mixed messages that could provoke war.
Many of the figures most often hailed as the adults in the room have left the Trump administration—H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and James Mattis. It’s doubtful whether any of them deserved the praise they received as exemplars of prudence and maturity. McMaster was a reckless hawk on North Korea, and Kelly was fully on board for Trump’s nativist immigration policy. Kelly also joined Trump in enthusiastically slinging mud at Representative Frederica Wilson for daring to criticize the president. Tillerson ran the State Department like an autocratic CEO, refusing to listen to career diplomats and leaving key positions vacant. Mattis, although less hawkish than McMaster, had a long-standing obsession with Iran and almost provoked a conflict with that nation in early 2017.

Few of the adults had much staying power or ability to hobble Trump’s policies. Two recent resignations underscore just how feeble the internal resistance really is. On Wednesday, Kimberly Breier, the assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere and a stalwart Republican foreign policy hand, announced she was leaving her post. While the reason given was a desire to spend more time with her family, The Washington Post reports that according to one administration official, Breier “had been chastised, in a particularly unpleasant recent email chain, by White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who considered her insufficiently committed to publicly defending last month’s sudden agreement over asylum between President Trump and the government of Guatemala.”
It’s telling that Breier not only allowed herself to be chased out by the anti-immigrant zealot Miller but was also willing to deploy the familiar rationale about family obligations as the cause of her exit.

Resignations on matters of principle are rare in Washington; wave-making by ex-officials making explicit why they quit rarer still. The American tradition is for former government officials, both appointed ones and bureaucrats, to adhere to a code of silence, a ruling-class omertà that protects their former bosses. In 1974, during the height of Watergate, The New York Times noted that “American government officials, especially the President’s ‘official family,’ are expected to have their consciences under strict control. Loyalty, not ethical autonomy or resignation, is the name of the game.”
The day after Breier resigned, Foreign Service officer Chuck Park ended his government service. In a stinging op-ed in The Washington Post, he rebutted the notion that there was any effective resistance inside the government.

“Among my colleagues at the State Department, I have met neither the unsung hero nor the cunning villain of Deep State lore,” he observed. “If the resistance does exist, it should be clear by this point that it has failed.”

Instead of the fictional deep state, Park offers the reality of a “Complacent State” that “sighs when the president blocks travel by Muslim immigrants; shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; averts its gaze from images of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders.” In other words, the government is staffed with individuals fully complicit in Trumpism.

There is an upside to the failure of the resistance inside the administration: It’s deeply antidemocratic to fantasize about a deep state foiling duly elected officials. Trump, like it or not, was elected president. Unless Trump orders crimes, he should be obeyed. If government officials don’t like what Trump is doing, the proper course of action is to follow Park’s lead: Resign and condemn the president.
The real resistance shouldn’t come from those who work for Trump but from democratic forces outside the White House, from voters, and from Congress. It’s long past time to give up magically thinking about salvation from the adults in the room and refocus our energy on fighting Trump in the political arena.

Jeet HeerJeet Heer is a national-affairs correspondent at The Nation and the author of In Love with Art: Francoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman (2013) and Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays and Profiles (2014).

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Midsummer Sweden

Midsummer Sweden
This sans sunset day
The city streets are empty
Country sides are filled with celebration
Twilight until dawn
Another summer solstice
Clock of seasons
Magic hours when animals can talk
Girls dream of future husbands
Lovers yet unknown.

Maypoles are dressed in wreaths of flowers
Waltzed around with blue and yellow streamers
Weaving into joyous solar anniversary
Beheld by gatherings of thousands.
Sound of peace and love, and heavy metal
Armies of ecstatic teens at large
Will dance until the music fades into the morning mist.
Another day.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Amsterdaming - Part 2

The Bulldog. Probably the oldest of the few coffee houses left in the Red Light district.

AmsterdamingLPart 3 - The Poesenboot

The Poesenboot   (Cat Boat) is a sanctuary for stray cats in Amsterdam. Anna was tending bar at the Torenzicht and I asked her if she knew where it was, and if so, how far from the hotel.

“Not far,” she said. “I’ve been there. It’s behind Hotel Victoria, cross the canal, turn left and you’re there —ten minute walk.”
Seemed worth a shot, and I was curious—a cat-like quality. I found the place without much trouble but was fifteen minutes early and surprised to see a couple dozen people waiting to board. The door opened at 1:00, after the cats had lunch I guess. We were allowed in, five or six at a time. There was no admission charge—a nice surprise, but nothing much to see. Just cats. We’ll what did I expect? There were a couple dozen of them, some in cages, most were out. There were cat poles to climb and scratch on, fancy beds, and toys, places to climb and windows to look out of.
The cats were very well groomed, but ordinary, just cats wondering around and letting tourists adore, take photos, and pet them.
I didn’t stay long. I get enough cat petting and photos at home.  I felt a little guilty about the free admission charge and bought a cat boat button from the small souvenir counter on the way out.

Back at the hotel bar again, I’m talking to Anna about the place.
“The say you can adapt a cat,” she said. “That’s why I went there. The woman wanted to come and look at my apartment. Three visits she said, to decide if I was okay. And a lot or paper work. I finally gave it up. I think she just wants to hold on to the cats. I would have given it a good home.”

“Cat ladies,” I agree. “They don’t let go.”
“There’s also a cat museum, the Katten Kabinet.” Anna stacks some empty glasses at the bar.” They charge admission—7 Euros.”
“A cat museum? Why?” I ask.

“We have museums for everything, “she says. “Shoe museums, was museums, watch museums, an eyeglass museum, diamond museum, fashion museum, wax museum . . . We’ve got a museum for anything you can think of. “There’s also a kat museum, Katten Kabinet,” she says. “They charge 7 Euros for admission.

Going to pass on Katten Kabinet. The Maritime museum next.