Friday, February 3, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: My Personal Hypocrisy

It’s been a tough two weeks.  
I’m a relatively liberal guy, but I have a lot of conservative friends and a few super-conservative friends, and we live in an age where things are not going as I would personally prefer.  It’s not just that my side lost.  As a Bloomberg fan, the truth is more that my side opted not to run, only to have the nightmare scenario play out regardless.  I hit a personal nadir just this past weekend, however, when a friend asked if I was still in favor of gun control now that we have a guy in the White House with whom I so violently disagree.  This struck me as a strange question.  
What am I supposed to do, start a bloody revolution?  Against whom?  
I know the mayor of my town and many of the police.  I support my local politicians, agree with a wide plurality of our state and local laws, and generally like living where I live.
I finally went through and pruned my Facebook feed.  I didn’t unfriend anyone, but I did unfollow more than two dozen, and it’s made me a better person.  If those folks want to message me, that’s fine.  We can grab a beer and talk shop, or whatever.  I’m not saying that I hate anyone or that I never want to see them again.  Actually, it’s quite the opposite.  These past two weeks have made me angry all too often, and that’s not good for anyone.  I will agree that all politics are personal, but they are also always local as well.  I therefore want to live my own life in my own way, and I humbly suggest that this is a good way forward in an otherwise divided nation.  I am in hopes that my own home State of Connecticut can opt out of as much National Level Fascist Bullshit (NLFB) as possible.  I guess we’ll see how that goes.  David Frum was not too keen on this idea in his piece in the Atlantic this week.
I talk politics on this blog quite a bit, but more and more, I’m realizing that it’s a mistake to engage on the open platforms of broadband social media.  Granted, sometimes I can’t help it.  If you come HERE, however... This is my blog, and you’re going to get my opinions.  You don’t have to trust me or my sources, but please, take your distrust as an invitation to go elsewhere.  

I'm not on a crusade, and I'm not looking to convince you.  Read at your own risk.

1. It's time for churches to sever ties with Boy Scouts (Fox News)
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” spokesperson Rebecca Rausch told Associated Press. "However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state...”
So what’s a patriotic American young man supposed to do?
Since Trump praised him at the White House’s Black History Month celebration, I’ll let Frederick Douglas answer this one.

This is why I’m not a good Christian.  All that hate makes my head hurt.
Researchers say they've found the first evidence that we're all just living in something like a huge hologram the size of the universe…
"Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field," he says in a news release Monday. "The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the entire universe is encoded!"
A fascinating theory that has absolutely no relevance to actual reality.
3.  Friday Hair Metal: Suite Madam Blue (1976)

Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order closing America’s borders to refugees from Syria and suspending entrance by citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries. In subsequent days, federal judges across the country responded to lawsuits stemming from the travel ban by ordering the Department of Homeland Security to immediately stop enforcing various aspects of the executive order…
By Sunday, reports started coming out that some federal agents from Customs and Border Protection were disregarding the court orders, and continuing to enforce Trump’s travel ban in a way that violated instructions they’d been given by judges. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a radio interview Monday that his office was looking into reports that CBP agents at Dulles International Airport were blocking people who had been detained under Trump’s ban from speaking to lawyers, in direct violation of an order issued Saturday night by Judge Leonie Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia…
What happens when the federal government or its agents refuse to honor a court order handed down by a federal judge?
Short answer: no one knows.  It’s theoretically possible that armed U.S. Marshals will confront armed U.S Customs agents in some kind of intra-governmental showdown.  This particular week, however, Marshals were directed, by all accounts, to take their orders from the acting-Attorney General, who then also refused to comply with court orders.  In effect, the courts can say what they want, but the Executive Branch may well decide to ignore them.  
This can lead nowhere good.
Unfortunately, the only people on Earth with the power to prevent massive Executive overreach are our feckless Congress members, and though I’ve written my senator recently to urge him to resist via the checks and balances our government is supposed to provide, I’m not much banking on Congressmen doing their jobs.  For the time being, too many people have too much invested in looking the other way.  

Good piece.  As Roberts points out, this practice of Executive Orders is not exactly new.  Folks on both sides have argued against it since at least the 1940s, often noting that these orders ought to require Congressional approval.  In many cases, that is certainly correct.  

As I think we’ve all learned—either under Obama or Trump, or both—American government is a dog fight.  If Congress doesn’t push back and wrest power from the Executive Branch, then we’re going to continue to see unrestricted madness, regardless of which side you’re on in the current fight.  Both parties have a tendency to take short-term political victories whenever they’re in power, and here we are.  We would need Congressional Republicans to stand up to their own President, and though there are ample policy grounds for them to do just that, I’m not betting on it.  They want to get their agenda through first and foremost.

For what it’s worth, the Democratic Party is already campaigning against Republicans who’ve been a little too eager to support the worst aspects of this Administration’s lunacy.  National voting is the ultimate check on major party power, and with that in mind, I think Republicans would be well advised to consider the medium- and long-term before giving in blindly to Trump’s worst impulses.  Long time readers of this blog may recall that I said the same of the Obama Administration when they pushed the ACA through what was then a Congress divided very similarly to the one that exists today.

I think we need some middle ground.  Unfortunately, the ground in the middle has been shrinking beneath our feet.
* * *
I’m not overly sanguine about the future of American democracy.  Maybe we get away relatively unscathed if the GOP Congress turns on the President after they get the first part of their agenda signed into law.  The same could happen if voters give Democrats control of Congress in the second half of Trump’s term.  I don’t know that either looks particularly likely.
Frum’s vision of a country slowly sliding into kleptocracy seems the most probable possibility, which is made even worse because the same kinds of inherent double-dealing were plainly visible on the other side of the aisle just this past election cycle.  I don’t think another Clinton Administration would have been quite as bad as what we’re seeing now, but it’s still true that the left has its issues with Free Speech.  It’s also true that the dealings of the Clinton Foundation looked bad, and that HRC herself was also quite authoritarian in her approach to the mechanics of government. 
When people say Trump is “honest,” what I think they mean is that he is an honest criminal.  He’s Nixon without the veneer of respectability.
We are where we are.  I don’t know that we can save ourselves, but it’s possible that a trade war will tank the financial markets in a truly spectacular way, forcing change through fear, widespread pain, and financial panic.  I actually think that's likely, but not in the near-term.  Likewise, we may yet plunge into another optional war, either via invasion of Mexico or in the South China Sea.  Short of that, however, most Americans will probably just keep on keeping on.  

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