Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Andrew Johnson's Impeachment, Trump and the Military, a Philadelphia Story and a Krugman Column



The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson, assuming the Presidency after Lincoln’s assassination, had rather liberal ideas about dealing with the defeated Confederate states which had seceded.  Now that they were back, unhappily, but nevertheless back in the Union, he was ready to ignore the reasons for which the war was fought.

Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, had different ideas and with the Army occupying the South, he was no so willing as was President Johnson to forgive and forget for the sake of the Union.  His Republican supporters in Congress passed, over Johnson’s veto, the Tenure of Office Act, protecting those appointees whom the Congress had approved from being fired without Senatorial agreement.  Specifically, this act was intended to protect Stanton from the President’s vengeance.  Nevertheless, Johnson fired Stanton and replaced him with General Ulysses S. Grant temporarily.  Congress didn’t like this and liked it even less when Grant, seeing he was being used, quit in short order and Johnson appointed General Lorenzo Thomas to the post.  Thomas was no more than a mouthpiece for Johnson who would do as he was told.

Meanwhile, knowing Congress was backing him, Stanton locked himself in his office and refused to depart.  The Republican Congress supported him, and because the President was intentionally violating the Tenure of Office Act (among other things), passed Articles of Impeachment against him in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, however, the Articles fell one vote short of conviction, a “bought” Senator from Kansas siding with the President after a week of bargaining. Thus, Andrew Johnson survived his impeachment and went on to wreck the reconstruction of the South for which Abraham Lincoln had worked so hard and died.  It took almost a century to undo the harm Andrew Johnson initiated in the South after the Civil War.  Actually, we are still working on it.  (That is why, at least up to now, many historians rank Andrew Johnson as our worst President.)

The Tenure of Office Act was in effect only until 1877.  Nevertheless, any President who fires a Cabinet member who had been confirmed by the Senate had better watch himself, especially if he appoints someone to the job, even temporarily, whom Congress would never confirm.  Andrew Johnson narrowly escaped Congress’ wrath. 



That succeeding Presidents can get away with it is doubtful.  And that includes the present occupant of the White House who is unhappy with the way the Department of Justice goes about the business of administering justice.   There is a limit beyond which even Republicans will not go in continuing to support the thief who stole their Party.
JL


It Happened in Philadelphia


“Let’s not give too much power to the people, guys,” one of the Founding Fathers suggested.  “We were thirteen separate British colonies and now, we’re thirteen separate states, united into one country.  But let’s not get carried away.”

“Yeah,” another one of the Founders added, “Thirteen united ‘states.’  We can call ourselves the united ‘states’ of America.  But are we really united … or just separate states?”

“Sounds better when you capitalize it: The United States of America. Okay?”  Everyone seemed to like that. 

The first Founding Father continued, “But although nominally united, we still are separate states. Flip a couple of letters and ‘united” becomes “untied.”  We never ever intended to tear down the boundaries between the thirteen of us completely and share our wealth equally. Let’s not forget that.”

“You’re right,” another chimed in.  “We might have a common currency, a common navy to protect us, a common army if we need one, and deal with other nations as one country, not as thirteen separate states.  But still we remain thirteen separate and distinct states. The problem is how do we keep it that way with one government running the show. Those Articles of Confederation certainly didn’t work.”

James Madison was probably the speaker
The first speaker, a Founding Father from Virginia, spoke up.  “Guys, we can have it both ways!  When we set up a legislature, we should divide up its powers. Actually, we could have two separate legislatures, like they have in England, with a House of Lords and a House of Commons, dividing legislative powers between them.  One might represent all of the people of the United States as one country, and the other can represent the states, as individual states, united, but still separate, regardless of their population.  We could call that the Senate, like the Romans did.”

“Yeah,” injected someone probably from  either Rhode Island or Delaware, “Then those big states with all those people like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York, won’t be able to step all over us little guys.  Every state should have the same number of representatives in the Senate and be the equal of any other state, regardless of size or population.  In the other legislature, we can let the number of representatives be determined by the populations of the states, making it a real "people's" body.  We can do a census every ten years to keep that  number up to date."

A few of the Founding Fathers stood up and appaluded.  One spoke up, "Now let's figure out exactly what powers the the Senate would have and what powers this House of *(the People's) Representatives, which is what we should call it, will have.  And what we leave out, can be left to the individual states to handle."

“Yeah,” a voice from the gallery shouted.  “They can handle the license plates for our wagons.”

That is more or less the way it probably happened.  And up to now, it has worked. 

Paul Krugman’s 11-8 New York Times column dealt with this.  It must be read.  Visit it by CLICKING HERE .  If that doesn’t work, just copy and paste this on your browser line:

* (The stenographer who was writing all this down back in 1789 left out these two words, "the People's," so we now just call it the House of Representatives.)
JL








Donald Trump Loves our Troops .... Sure!


If you want to know how much the President loves the military, be sure to read this Washington Post column.    Just Click Right Here to read what the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty had to say on Nov. 12. 

He respects our armed forces in the same way that a tin-horn third world dictator boasts about "his" army.  Of course the armed forces of the United States are "our" army and not those of our own tin-horn President.

His latest attack on retired Admiral McRaven, whose special forces got to Bin Ladin after the CIA found him, because he disagrees with the President politically, shows the shallowness of Trump's love affair with the military.  If they can be used, fine.  Otherwise, they warrant no respect from him.  That's our phony baloney President.  But the Republicans who continue to support him are no better than he is, although almost all of them know better.  The votes of the gullible Trump base are all that keep them from having to look for new jobs.

I can well understand how his gullible and often bigoted base of support swallows his malarky ... but it becomes increasingly difficult to understand why otherwise intelligent Republicans in Congress, whose Party he has destroyed, continue to put up with him.  When the impeachment votes come, and they eventually will, I wonder where they will stand.

The Founding Fathers, led by James Madison (pictured above) demanded that the military be under civilian control.  This is why our civilian President is Commander in Chief.  But by putting military people, used to taking orders from above, in White House civilian positions, Trump defeats this.  Perhaps the pageantry of uniforms and medals makes him feel less insecure.  Mattis, Kelly, Masterson, etc. all were great generals, but that doesn't turn them into great civilians automatically, as was the case with George Marshall at the end of World War Two.  But Trump likes the military because they profess loyalty and take orders.  His vision has no broader horizon than that.  Trump is un-American.  Republicans must learn that.
JL




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Jack Lippman 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Gun Violence and SCOTUS, Butterflies, Humor and a Bit of Politics

On Veterans Day, November 11, take a moment to honor those who have served to protect and defend our country.

Reducing Gun Violence Rests with the Supreme Court

Although retired since 2010, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has advocated repeal of the Second Amendment.  He has called the reasons for its existence “a relic of the 18th century."   But unfortunately, Stevens is no longer on the Court which is now dominated by five conservative Justices.
 
I recently wrote to these conservative Justices (Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh) about the Second Amendment.  Writing to them is preferable to Emails.  Hopefully such correspondence will perhaps reach one of a Justice’s clerks.

These Justices are all fully aware of the facts.  What they might not be aware of is the shift in the feeling of most American citizens toward the regulation of firearms.  Making them aware of that shift is important.  Letters can accomplish that.  The repeated tragedies in which the Court’s 2008 interpretation of the Second Amendment may have played a part may already be weighing heavily on their consciences.  They know what happened in Parkland, in Pittsburgh and in Thousand Oaks this year!   











Here is the text of the letter I sent recently to these five Justices:


Justice _________:

“I am certain that you are aware of the historical basis of the Second Amendment.  One does not have to be a strict interpreter of the Constitution to understand its clear language:

"A well-regulated militia" (this means a volunteer military force operating under a set of rules, and not just a gang of people running around with weapons),"being necessary to the security of a free state," (there were thirteen “free states” at the time comprising the “United States,” which a few years earlier had not been “free” but under British rule), "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" (for the purpose of being available with their arms to serve in those well-regulated militia in those “free states”).

Broader interpretations of the Second Amendment, including those ignoring its first dozen words, are political and should be avoided.

Some of the thirteen original states, remembering British rule, were still wary of the military power of a central government and wanted some counterbalance to that power, should the Federal government ever use it against a state.  That was the reason for the Second Amendment.  (The states which insisted on it were the ones where slavery was practiced. That was their underlying motivation.)”

I encourage you to write your own letter or copy the one I sent.  Emails aren’t the way to go with Supreme Court Justices.  But you can mail it, individually, to the Justices mentioned above at this address:

Supreme Court of the United States
 1 First Street, NE
 Washington, DC 20543

The chance of repeal of the Second Amendment during our lifetimes is highly remote.  Over the years, however, there will be legislation on both the Federal and State level which will accomplish that by providing that certain weapons be restricted or highly regulated and that other measures be taken to control who gets to possess them. 
Supreme Court Building in Washington


Such legislation will be challenged in the courts and the ultimate decision will rest with the Supreme Court.  That’s why letters such as this are important.
Jack Lippman


Laughs

“Seymour, get up!  You have to go to school!  You’ll be late!,” his mother shouted.
“Ma, I don’t wanna go to school,” Seymour answered.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because all the teachers and all the students hate me, that’s why,” he answered.
“Seymour,” the mother declared, "You HAVE to go to school!  You’re the Principal!”
  
When you chuckle (?) at a joke like this, what is it at which you are laughing?  Could it be that you find it amusing that a middle-aged man is still living at home, as much under his mother's care as he was when he were a child?  What's funny about that?  He has problems, and they should be addressed properly, not laughed at.

If "Seymour" were "Shirley," or if the "waker-upper" were his father rather than his mother, would there even be a joke?  I doubt it.  This story is generated by the wellspring of humor based on the relationship between Jewish mothers and their sons, and which has contributed mightily to the income of many Catskill Mountain comedians as well as to that of many psychiatrists.
JL


News from the Butterfly Garden

This has been a bad year for Monarch butterflies.  Scientists have offered several explanations for this most common of butterflies becoming an only occasional visitor to its usual haunts. These reasons include the increase in the use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture throughout the country which can not only kill Monarchs (in the form of eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises or actual butterflies) but can get rid of the milkweed without which Monarchs cannot survive.  Climate change and deforestation in areas of Mexico to which Monarchs migrate are also suggested as explanations for their decline.

Monarch in caterpillar form. (Tiny orange dots behind it
 are eggs laid by female Monarch butterflies
from which these things hatch)
I put several milkweed plants in the ground some months ago and they must have attracted some Monarchs because numerous Monarch caterpillars were spotted in the garden devouring most of the milkweed plants’ leaves.   But their evolution into butterflies just didn’t occur, and even with the regrowth of leaves on the milkweeds, only one caterpillar has been seen recently (pictured to the right this morning)which at least suggests that there have been Monarch butterflies around.  I just haven’t seen them.  My theory was that the caterpillars were being eaten by the geckos in the garden.  To get rid of them, I liberally scattered garlic cloves and also a few mothballs in the garden.  I also threw some egg shells there.  These are supposed to make the geckos think there are birds around, making them seek other hunting grounds.  The number of geckos has been reduced and I suspect the cause is the garlic.

Meanwhile, I have spotted an occasional Giant Swallowtail hanging around the wild lime tree in my yard.  The books say that is their favorite plant on which to lay eggs.  I haven’t seen any caterpillars on the tree, but the presence of these beautiful gold trimmed butterflies indicate that they must be there, unless the ones I see are just visitors.   If they are, they are welcome to lay their eggs right here.   I’ve also seen a few White Peacock butterflies around, but I doubt if they are breeding in my garden.  I suspect they inhabit the slopes of the canal behind my house.   These three varieties are pictured below.



















From top to bottom, Monarch, Giant Swallowtail and White Peacock butterflies

JL


Back to Politics

The Democratic Party will be a majority in the newly elected House of Representatives, all the seats of which were up for election on November 6.   They also captured seven governorships from the Republicans.  On the other hand, in the one-third of the Senate which was being elected, the Republican Party increased their majority by two or three seats over the Democrats.  This increase, while significant, represents voters in only one third of the nation’s states and is not so much an omen for the future as were their losses in the House, which represents the entire country.

Generally, the margin of victory for Democrats came from the votes of women, minority groups and younger people.  Republican victories came from the traditional Republican/Trumpian base, its hard-to-crack core anchored in older white male voters and recent right-wing recruits to the G.O.P.

The Democratic victories did not prevent the loss of Senate seats in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and possibly Florida, where the factors discussed below all come into play.  The Democrats did capture a Republican Senate seat in Nevada, limiting their losses to two or three seats in the Upper House.

Let’s look at what prevented the Democrats from achieving a greater gain on Election Day than what they did accomplish in races for seats in the House of Representatives, in governorship races and in State legislatures.  What strength did the G.O.P. have in places like Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, for example, to repel the Democrats?  I think it is a matter of “image.”

In the eyes of many voters in rural areas and small cities across America, beyond whatever their programs might contain, the Democratic Party is seen as representing the urban elite of the major cities on the east and west coasts, along with the large minority populations found there, along with the social services these groups may require.  

The G.O.P. attempts to cash in on this image by making Nancy Pelosi the poster girl for it.  The history of political bosses and machines in these places, while no longer a factor, also lingers in their image of the Democratic Party.  While these voters, basically from a White Protestant culture, are not specifically racist nor bigoted, they are well aware that the Democratic Party has many Black, Latino, Jewish and at least in big cities, Roman Catholic adherents.  They don’t openly criticize the Democrats for this but it is often buried in the back of their thinking somewhere.  They see the Democrat “cohort” as different from theirs.  They can sense that what might be good for Los Angeles or New York City might not be good for Des Moines, and vote accordingly. 
 

Kansas Governor-Elect Kelly
This “image” problem is all that prevents the Democrats from picking up all the marbles once the old white guys die off.  Better (and more highly paid) analysts than me are probably working on this right now.  One of the things they probably are examining are the details of Democrat Laura Kelly’s victory over Kris Kobach in the Kansas governorship race.  If the Democrats can pull that off in Kansas, they can do it anywhere.
JL





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Jack Lippman 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Election Day Posting, Demeaning Men and a Nursery Rhyme


Election Day Commentary:

Do We Deserve to Live in a Democracy?

Voting should not pose a dilemma for the American people.   Most people in the country, as they did in 2016, will be voting Democratic because of that party’s forward-looking positions on health care, taxes, jobs and the environment.  Sadly, their doing so didn't help two years ago.  More will have to vote Democratic on Tuesday to accomplish that.

The Republicans have no program for health care, their tax reform only benefited the wealthy and businesses so they don’t talk about it.  Contrary to what the Democrats propose, they have ignored the infrastructure, the environment and the economic “safety net.”  The highlight of their accomplishments, reduced unemployment, is cancelled out by the failure of wages to increase, which normally accompanies low unemployment.  Further, growing economic hardships are resulting from their unwise trade and tariff policy.  

Bottom line:  The Democrats have programs to deal with these issues. The Republicans have none so all they can offer are fear, insults and disunity … at which they are very good.  But gerrymandered Congressional districts and tricky voter suppression techniques may bolster Republican chances to lessen their losses anyway. 

The elephant in the room is Donald Trump.  His intemperate appeal to the gullible who permeate his “base” has forced legitimate Republicans legislators to cower in fear of challenges from the right and given reassurance to the bigots, conspiracy peddlers, and racists among his supporters.  There is a direct traceable line between his participating in campaign “lock her up” cheering, his equivocation about racist terrorism in Charlottesville, and his emboldenment of the Pittsburgh synagogue murderer and the Florida mail-bomber by his incendiary speeches and tweets.  

He talks about “nationalism” with no understanding of the word. “White Nationalists,” however, all of whom are within his loyal base, and are far smarter than he is, do understand it.  It is an “exclusionary” word.  The first two letters of “Nazi” parties, wherever and whenever they may be, stand for “Nationalist” in its most exclusionary sense.  Trump is too ignorant to understand that.  He has no knowledge of history and is not capable of reading books.  (I still cannot figure how he got through four years at two very reputable universities, but that is a story yet to be written. I wouldn't be surprised if their accreditation is questioned.)

But he does know that the gullible, without whom he is dead meat, fear people who are “different” and of course, that includes immigrants, so he caters to those fears.  His constant harping on a “wall” to keep “them” out and his mischaracterization of the caravan of Central Americans currently trudging northward is a prime example of this and was probably the direct motivation of the Pittsburgh murderer who associated HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) with that caravan and set out to kill Jews.  The President has abysmally failed to recognize that and avoids taking responsibility for the result of his words and concentrates on changing the subject (with Fox's aid) in order to keep his pathetic and gullible base in line.  

Words have power and once unleashed, their results cannot be easily controlled.  Trump’s fictitious description of the caravan as including “gang-members and Middle Easterners” and calling the press an “enemy of the people” can uncontrollably inflame passions once they are let out of the bottle. The President (and his foul mouthpieces on Fox News and talk radio) cannot absolve himself from responsibility for the results.  He shares guilt with the perpetrators of crimes which, without his words egging them on, would not have been committed.  In other countries, provocateurs like our President ultimately end up in prison or worse. 
  
Enough Americans, even Republicans, are aware of this and they will have their say on Election Day when they vote.  Many decent Republicans, excluding the bigots, racists and conspiracy peddlers who have supported Donald Trump, have had enough of him.   A limit is being reached.  In fact, many Republican candidates are now carefully trying to distance themselves from the President, recognizing that he is becoming as much of an albatross as an asset. 

But that won’t fool many. There will be nation-wide Democratic gains, perhaps enough to give that Party control of the House of Representatives and elsewhere, and this will drive the racists, bigots and conspiracy peddlers into a mad frenzy.  Shortly thereafter, the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team will be coming out, and that, together with the election results, will further polarize the nation, putting it on the cusp of a second civil war.  There are many, having found a home in the right wing of the Republican Party, who are still fighting the first one.

The choice before us seems either to engage in that second civil war, standing up for democracy with demonstrations, legislation and litigation, or to back down, attempting to achieve temporary peace by shameful compromise, which was the course followed during the half century before 1860, which culminated in our bloody first civil war.  This second civil war, if it must be fought, will not be bloodless, because its first blood has already been shed in Pittsburgh.  And the Supreme Court’s cowardly and tortured misinterpretation of the Second Amendment has guaranteed that there are enough weapons around to fight it on many levels.  

There is a lot of blame for this polarization to go around, and it must be shared by (1) Trump-fearing Republican legislators, by (2) right-wing blowhards at Fox and other conservative media, and to a lesser but still very significant extent by (3) otherwise decent Republicans who went along and voted for Trump and his acolytes because they believe in traditional Republican positions and Trump just happened to be the Party’s candidate.  None of them can walk away blameless.  They’ve all slept with dogs and now, they too have fleas!  (The argument that the media is “left-leaning” and therefore must share in the blame is false because the media’s business is to objectivity report well documentable truths, which it does, while Trump’s warehouse is filled with undocumentable lies.  There is a difference.)  

Trump’s combination of shallow ignorance, moral bankruptcy and historic corruption ought to result in most thinking Americans, even lifelong Republicans, voting for Democratic candidates on November 6, because they will have finally recognized that any Republican candidate who is still loyal to Donald Trump is not worth voting for.  

If Americans really are as stupid as Donald Trump believes us to be, we do not deserve to live in a democracy.  

Get out and vote on Election Day … but be aware that regardless of who wins, the years following will not be pleasant ones for democracy in America.  They will demand citizens who are willing to stand up and fight for that which they believe, and not just write letters to newspapers and post on the internet.
Jack Lippman






Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,       
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,    
All the King’s horses and
All the King’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty
Together again.






A "Pseudo-Presidential Election"

We elect a President every four years.  The last time we did so was in 2016.  The  democratic process failed us then and gave us a President who has proven to be incapable of properly filling his office.  All polls show him to have the highest disapproval rate of any President in American history.  But, because both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in the hands of his political party, whose members survive in office only so long as they support him, there is no chance of his being impeached although there are numerous grounds available for that action. 

By electing a Democratic House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate in 2018, however, the nation will be able to severely limit the President’s excesses.  While a majority sufficient to succeed in impeaching the President is unlikely, such victories on Tuesday will go a long way toward limiting his powers.  Even capturing only the House of Representatives would be a massive step in the right direction.

Although we are not voting for a President on Tuesday, this mid-term election is really an attempt to redo the Presidential election of 2016 by electing a Congress which will tie that President’s hands to the extent legally possible. Hence, it is actually a “pseudo-Presidential election,” with the candidate's name not appearing on the ballot anywhere. 

It is a rare opportunity for Americans to have the chance to reverse the wrong direction in which our democracy, and the 2016 election process, permitted the nation to turn two years ago.  We should take advantage of it.

JL 




The Demeaning of Males

A few postings ago, I pointed out how advertisements, particularly on TV, were emphasizing the superiority of women over men, showing the women to be smart and their husbands, usually not so smart.   

Recall the husband attempting to carry about fifty grocery bags in from his Toyota Rav, all at one time, because it was "his thing" and his wife smirking knowing in the background, waiting for him to start dropping some of the bags on his way to the kitchen (which we know he would do, off screen, of course.)



And then there was that poor guy spending hours trying to locate a suitable used car to buy interrupted by his wife who accomplished it in 


about four seconds on some car buying website.   



Equality of the sexes should not mean that it is open season for demeaning men!  Note that the comic strips have even joined in, propagandizing the children who read them.  Check out “Baby Blues” from the Sunday, Oct. 28, comics of your local paper. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT or just go to http://babyblues.com/comics/october-28-2018/.  

After the kids rejected eating supposedly inferior “generic” brands of breakfast cereal, the mother poured the stuff into the father’s bowl.   The dialog went something like this: Mom (to kids) – “I didn’t think you could tell the cheap stuff from the brand-name stuff.”  Kid – “Ha! What kind of doofus couldn’t tell?”  Dad – “Mmm … Good cereal.”

So Dad is a “doofus.”  (defined as a “stupid person.”)  If this kind of demeaning thing keeps up, there will be no required role remaining for males in our culture.  Their traditional duties of being the hunter, leader, provider, breadwinner and protector have been minimized by women being quite able to also perform those activities, and his essential biologic role as the provider of sperm to enable his mate to bear children has been supplemented by “in vitro” fertilization techniques.

The role of men in the centuries to come has yet to be defined but watch TV advertisements and the comics for clues.  Also look closely at anthills.
JL



 HOW TO BE ALERTED TO FUTURE BLOG POSTINGS.
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Contact me by email at Riart1@aol.com.   YOU ALSO CAN SEND ME YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO BE PUBLISHED IN THIS BLOG AS WELL AS YOUR COMMENTS AT THAT ADDRESS.  (Comments can also be made by clicking on the "Post a Comment" link at the blog's end, though few followers of the blog have done that lately.)

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