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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Whole Bunch of Stuff: Michael Gerson, St. Thomas More, Kathleen Parker, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ron DeSantis, Brett Kavanaugh, Fordham, the U of P and of course, Donald Trump

A Gerson “Must Read” Column

There was a great Washington Post column by Republican conservative Michael Gerson last week.  In it (the column’s heading was ‘Republicans must pick their point of principled resistance’), Gerson quotes author Edward Luce about populism as follows: “the true populist loses patience with the rules of the democratic game” and goes on to comment that “he comes to view himself as the embodied voice of the people and (sees) opponents as (in Trump’s words) “un-American“ and “treasonous.”  Wow!  You must read the entire column!

St. Thomas More
I read the column in the Palm Beach Post, which had omitted its final paragraph which talked about St. Thomas More, who in Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons,” had to make a fatal decision resulting in his execution.  He drew a line beyond which he would not retreat in confronting evil.  That’s why the Roman Catholic Church made him a saint.  Republicans can’t hope for sainthood if they act now, but they can take a lesson from this column.
Click here to read  the full column as it originally appeared in the Washington Post. 
Jack Lippman

 How it Will End

Things are developing so fast with the Presidency that this weekly blog cannot keep up with them.  Cracks in the edifice are widening. 
The advance hints as to what Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book will reveal and the New York Times Op-ed piece by an anonymous Senior White House official deeply criticizing the President are unprecedented.  Charges of incompetence and mental illness even overshadow hints at criminality.  Even Barack Obama has issued a clarion call to America to wake up!

But there are still enough Americans out there sufficiently gullible, misled, misinformed or just plain dumb (no other word suffices) supporting the President, and enough Republicans in Congress who fear that their speaking the truth will result in a fatal primary challenge from the right to prevent anything being done at this point. They are quiet because the majorities his supporters have given them in Congress enable them to push through what is mostly a traditional Republican agenda (Tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, weakened safety net, emasculated health care, conservative judiciary, etc.). That is sad, but that is what happens when easily-swayed people vote against their own interests and put Republicans into office. 

Go back right now and read the Gerson column above if you have not already.  This is what it is all about.

There will have to be something absolute, irrefutable and ironclad, from Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation or otherwise, which when presented to the public, to Congress … and to the President … will result in his immediate resignation.  I don’t know what that something is, but it is out there lurking somewhere, like Moby Dick following the Pequod, occasionally hinting at its presence, but not revealing itself fully until poised to ultimately destroy its target. That will end it all.

Moby Dick was a White Whale ... but a picture of one here wouldn't show up as well as this one does.  Sorry.

A Parker Quote

Here’s a quick quote from a Kathleen Parker Washington Post column last week directed at Evangelicals, who along with Congressional Republicans, daily attain new heights of hypocrisy. 

“If Republicans do lose Congress, it will be because of Trump himself.  A Democratic victory in the midterms will happen because of the GOP’s silence in the face of Trump’s untenable behavior; their lack of courage in condemning his Draconian execution of policies; and the utter hypocrisy of allowing such a foul-mouthed, race-baiting misogynist to occupy the Oval Office after many of these same paragons of virtue impeached Bill Clinton for lying about his irresponsible affair with an intern.”

Parker, like Gerson, are life-long Republicans.

Something Special About Poetry

Sara passed this 2007 poem on to us.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the major poet of the Beat Generation as well as a painter, bookseller and liberal activist, is still alive and kicking at age 99.  Poets have the uncanny ability to write things that endure over the years.  That’s what so special about poetry.  One cannot deny that this poem has meaning for us today.

Pity the Nation 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, 
whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation —  oh, pity the people 
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

The Education of Donald Trump

I’ve always had my doubts about how Donald J. Trump amassed his educational credentials.   Living in a nice neighborhood in the borough of Queens of New York City, Trump could have gone to one of the best high schools in the entire city at the time, Jamaica High School, just a short distance from where he lived.  

Jamaica High School
Instead, his family opted to send him to the New York Military Academy.  In my recollection, back in the day, teenagers who attended military academies were sent there by their parents, if they could afford it, because they believed a private school education would be better for their offspring than a public high school.  But there are many private schools that are not military academies.  Those whom I knew who attended military academies did so for one of two reasons. Some came from military families that felt such a secondary education would be a good start for a military career.  Others felt that the structure of a military academy, for a variety of reasons, would benefit the student better than a non-military environment.  Donald Trump did not come from a military family.

Fordham University, where Trump spent his first two college years, is a rigorous college run by the Jesuit order, and provides an excellent education and is not particularly easy to get into. The University of Pennsylvania, to which Trump transferred for his junior and senior years, is one of the great schools of our nation, and its business curriculum, anchored at the Wharton School of Business, is said to be one of the best in the nation and also has rigorous entrance requirements.

From what I’ve seen of the President, he did not learn very much at either Fordham nor Penn (nor at NYMA for that matter).   I wonder how long it will be before some investigative body looks into whether any sizable donations might have been made to either of these schools by Donald Trump’s family at about the time he was a student there.   It would be to his credit if there were none.

Instinctive, Ingrained Bigotry in the Florida Governorship Race

Let’s be overly fair to Ron DeSantis, Republican nominee for the Florida governorship.   He was accused of racism when he said that “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up and try to embrace a socialist agenda.”  The man does not speak English very well (despite an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a Law degree from Yale) and I suspect the words he actually was trying to get out of his mouth were that “the last thing we need to do is monkey around and try to embrace a socialist agenda.”   While “monkey around” is a frequently used expression, I have never heard anyone say “monkey up.”  I think he was confusing this with saying “screw this up” but he failed to get the syntax right when “screwing up” got somehow switched to “monkeying up.”    Nevertheless, the use of this expression, either way, conjures up an image of an inept monkey trying to do something and failing at it, and in the southern part of the United States today, this clearly evokes a racial meaning, especially when DeSantis’ opponent is a man of color, and a lot of people who are voting in Florida still aren’t quite certain of who won the Civil War. 

Most charitably conceding that DeSantis did not consciously intend it to come out that way, we are left with the alternative that his choice of words was instinctive or sub-conscious and that makes it even worse.  Why didn’t he just say “screw this up” instead of “monkey this up?  I believe that this is what he started out to do, but his instinctive, ingrained bigotry popped the word “monkey” into his mouth instead of the word “screw” without even bothering to get the syntax straight.  This says all that need be said about the man’s character.  He’s a turd. You can smell him a mile off. This will do him little good beyond the Trump base, which also has an instinctive, ingrained bigotry affecting everything they say or do.

Now that I’ve said about the nicest things I can say about him, here’s the rest of the story on Ron DeSantis.

Let’s start in the House of Representatives.  His legislative record there includes the introduction of a bill in 2014 to direct the DOJ to report to Congress when any Federal Agency refrains from enforcing laws on the books.  This was aimed at reducing the power of President Obama under the pretext that he was not enforcing laws in order to further his “unpopular agenda.”
A year earlier, he signed on to a pledge, initiated by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, promising to vote against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes.
A year ago, DeSantis proposed a rider to the 2018 spending package which would end funding for the 2017 Special Counsel investigation and also limiting how far back they could go in their investigations, countering a bi-partisan measure aimed at limiting the President’s power to fire the Special Prosecutor.
Needless to say, DeSantis is a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, whose actions, along with those of the President, are destroying the Republican Party whose failing label he carries into the Governorship race. 

DeSantis has the President’s support in that race.  He is so devoted to the President that during the primary campaign, he ran an ad showing him teaching his young children how to “build the (Trump’s) wall” and say "Make America Great Again.” He also dressed the youngest in a tiny red "Make America Great Again" jumper. 

Peas in a Pod
Asked by a reporter if he could name an issue where he disagreed with Trump, DeSantis was not able to name a single issue. 

But speaking of “issues,” here is a brief summary of where DeSantis stands on some important ones.

·         He was against the VA giving veterans access to marijuana when recommended by a VA doctor.
·         He opposes abortion and has denounced Planned Parenthood.
·         He agreed with the Supreme Court decision which permitted the Hobby Lobby company to deny their employees group health coverage which included paying for abortions.
·         He believes the Federal Reserve System should be audited.
·         DeSantis supported a bill which required that regulations which have a significant economic impact be subject to a vote of Congress prior to taking effect.
·         DeSantis sponsored the Transportation Empowerment Act, which would transfer much of the responsibility for transportation projects to the individual states and sharply reduce the Federal tax on gasoline.
·         DeSantis has opposed legislation to require online retailers to collect and pay state sales tax.
·         He voted in favor of the 2017 Tax Cut Act, primarily benefiting the wealthy and businesses, believing that it will bring more jobs to America.
·         DeSantis opposes Federal education programs such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top,” saying that education policy should be made at the local level.
·         In 2015, DeSantis introduced the Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act, which would cut off foreign aid to countries that receive detainees from Guantanamo if they show back up on the terrorism recidivism list.
·         DeSantis opposed President Obama's plan to shut down the Guantanamo’s detention facility saying that bringing hardened terrorists to the U.S. homeland harms our national security."
·         Regarding the formal restart of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, DeSantis said "Raising the Cuban flag in the United States (over an embassy) is a slap in the face to those who have experienced the brutality of the Castro regime."
·         DeSantis opposed the Iran nuclear deal, calling it a bad deal that will significantly degrade our national security. DeSantis accused President Barack Obama of giving better treatment to Cuba's Raul Castro and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei than to Israel's Benjamin Netanyhahu.  (Right now, all signatories to that agreement seem to be adhering to it, with the exception of the United States, because of President Trump’s views.)
·         In 2013, DeSantis introduced the Palestinian Accountability Act, which would halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it formally recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and cuts off all ties with the terror group Hamas. DeSantis supported the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Actually, these measures lessen the chances of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem in the near future.
·         DeSantis opposes gun control. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.
·         Following the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, DeSantis expressed his support for hiring retired law enforcement officers and military veterans as armed guards for schools.
·         DeSantis is opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He has called for the "full and complete repeal" of the act. But he wasn’t
ready to support the American Health Care Act, the House Republican effort to replace it.  Even that wasn’t conservative enough for him.
·         DeSantis was a critic of President Obama's immigration policies; he opposed Obama's deferred action programs (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)) and accused him of failing to enforce immigration laws. DeSantis opposes "sanctuary cities,” which refuse to use their police resources to enforce questionable Federal programs.
·         Regarding U.S. policy toward refugees from the Middle East, DeSantis said "the prudent policy is to err on the side of protecting the American people.”
·         DeSantis has a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign based on his record of voting on LGBT-related issues and legislation.
·         According to the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis "made a name for himself in 2017 attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election." (See above legislative record.)
·         In January 2018, while on the House Intelligence Committee, DeSantis voted on party lines to release a classified memo authored by Republicans on the committee which purported to show that the FBI abused its surveillance powers in the Russia investigation. DeSantis voted not to release a memo authored by Democrats on the committee which accused the Republicans on the committee of playing politics with national security.
·         In April 2018, DeSantis called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to criminally investigate a number of officials involved in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, including former FBI Director James Comey, former Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Counsel Lisa Page. DeSantis also called for investigations of a number of former Obama officials, including Loretta Lynch and Hillary Clinton.
This man is no more fit to be Governor of the State of Florida than Donald J. Trump is fit to be President of the United States. 
(Watch for the next edition of www.jackspotpourri.com, in about a week, for the inside scoop on Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is opposing DeSantis in the governorship race.)

The hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court are a waste of time.  
1.    The Republicans have enough Senators to confirm him.  It will happen.
2.    The President said he would only appoint a “pro-life” Justice and early on, in talking about his family and community activities, Kavanaugh made a point of mentioning that he coaches his daughters CYO basketball team.  He didn’t say “basketball team.”  He said “CYO basketball team.”  At that point, I knew where he will be going on abortion related cases.  "Nothing but net."  Case closed.  First day!
3.    As for protecting the President from investigation, his continually evasive answers to questions on that point make it clear that his loyalty is to the man who nominated him and he is skillful enough to be able to find tortured legal precedent for anything he does, once appointed.  And he will be appointed.  
That will be a real tragedy.  The solution is to make sure the Democrats control the Senate for the next twenty years!  That is not in anyone’s hands except yours, dear readers.

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Jack Lippman 

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