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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 and 2018 My take

    It is impossible to summarize all that happened in 2017.  Chump does and says evil things multiple times a day.  Yesterday the Washington Post had an article about Chump's 30 minute interview with the New York Times.  The article laid out 24 pure falsehoods. It is not easy to lie that often in such a short time.  Many of the lies were breathtaking. In my view, he is more than a pathological liar.  I think he's delusional.  Please let me know if you want me to forward the article.
      I was struck by Bret Stephens' op ed piece in yesterday's NYT.  Stephens is a thoughtful conservative.  He started by describing how many of his conservative friends and colleagues  who held their noses while voting for Trump are now happy.  This is primarily because of the massive tax cuts.  Also Gorsuch is high on their list of happy things.  
     Then Stephens went on to say why he was and still remains a never Trumper.  He says that character matters.  Then he gave the following description of Chump:  "Trump's personality- the lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness."  Stephens' description is perfect, although not entirely complete.
  All news organizations have their lists of top  stories from 2017.  If I did my list it would be book length.  so I am going to limit my list to just two things.  I would ask you to give me your list.  I will be happy to publish them.  So here are the two images from 2017 which stay in the forefront of my brain.  First is the Women's March.  Kathryn and I were part of it.  We witnessed first hand how much larger it was than the inauguration the day before.  The photographs of the March were breathtaking.  This was a lifetime experience equaled only by the Obama inaugurations.
        The second image etched in my brain is Chump throwing rolls of paper towels to Puerto Ricans  who had lost everything.  He thought it was cute.  I thought it encapsulated the very sick mind that occupies the White House.  He has zero empathy, a classic sociopath.
       Now to 2018.  I am very optimistic.  There is a debate going on within the Democratic party as to whether they should run on traditional Democratic values of social and economic justice, or should they run on anti Trump messages.  I say both.  I think the amount of anti Trump energy is huge.  The women's march proved it.  So did the incredible election results in Virginia.  So did the Roy Moore defeat.  So did the other elections where Democrats barely lost in overwhelmingly Republican districts.
       Democrats across the country are mobilizing like I have never seen.  I received a call from a Leann Jacobson  in Iowa who is running against Steve King, one of the most evil, bigoted  people in Congress.  That's a low bar and he slithered beneath it.  I received another call from Cathy Myers.  She is running against Paul Ryan.  Both are longshots.  But they are not as longshots as was Doug Jones. Here in Michigan we have several outstanding candidates who have excellent shots at knocking off Republicans. (You will be hearing more about them  in the coming year.)  My point is that I have never seen such energy as has been displayed across the country since the Women's march.  Pundits, both Republican and Democrat, say that Democrats have a good chance of flipping the house.  And those pundits are assuming congressional maps stay as they are.  There is a very good chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will require remapping in heavily gerrymandered states.
       I have heard many pundits talk about the political forces in play in 2018,  None of them talk about the possible indictments and scandals which might come out of the Mueller investigation.  Mueller will deal in facts,  not in the lies which come from Trump whenever he opens his mouth.  I predict there will be more indictments and maybe even more guilty pleas.  Would anyone be surprised if Kushner is indicted?  All of the talking heads are focused on the Russia investigation.  I believe that Mueller is looking into Trump's, and Kushner's and Wilber Ross's  financial dealings.  They are loaded with dirty money.  In my view, this may be more explosive than the Russia investigation.  And finally, this may never be proven, but I am convinced that Russia has something on Trump.  That is the only possible explanation for his bizarre relationship with Putin.
      So, we can't predict the damage that Chump can do in the coming year.  We can only hope he does not start a war.  Assuming he doesn't, the winds of change are blowing at our backs.  There is a lot of cause for optimism.  Happy and healthy and peaceful New Year.

                                                                             Richard L

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We can win this thing. Keep calling and e mailing

Hi all,
     Tomorrow is the big election in Alabama.  My philosophy has always been to be surprised by  a win rather than be surprised by a loss.  The latest polling is encouraging
      As you know, right now the Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the senate.  They passed the horrendous tax bill by 51-49 with Corker dissenting.   If Doug Jones wins in Alabama and if Corker stay true to his principles, the vote is then 50-50.  The Republicans still win because Pence breaks the tie.  So if Jones wins, we need only one senator to join Corker  If Moore wins we need two.  We can't stop fighting against this regime which is destroying our country. I still believe it is possible to turn around one or two senators.  Separately, rumor has it that Thad Cochran is gravely ill. The Republicans are praying that he stays alive long enough to be wheeled into the Senate for the vote.  If he stays alive, but can't get to the Senate we are just about winners. They have an alternate prayer, that he meets his maker sooner rather than later so the Mississippi Governor can appoint a new senator in an instant. Here is my thinking.
       Susan Collins got snookered.    She made a deal with McConnell that he would get a bill passed which would protect about 13 million people who are beneficiaries of Obamacare.  This is very important to Collins.  This was the reason she voted against repeal.  In the light of day, all reports are that Collins realized she made a stupid deal.  Putting aside the fact that McConnell can't be trusted,  Paul Ryan has said that he was not in on the deal and he has no interest in the deal.  In other words, Collins' deal is dead on arrival.  If she is truly a woman of principle, she must vote against this bill.
       McCain claims that he wants to restore regular process to the the senate.  This bill passed with the most irregular process.  As the senators go over the bill, they will see what n horrendous thing it is.  Many huge mistakes have already been identified.  Maybe McCain will cement his legacy as a man of principle  by voting "no."
       Flake has written a book about his hatred for Trump and everything he stands for.  Trump is bragging that this is his tax bill.  Flake is an independent thinker he can change his mind.  He can deny Trump his triumph.
       Supposedly  Capito has a problem with denying health benefits to millions.  Her state of West Virginia has a huge number of enrollees in Obamacare. Maybe she can be turned.
        Murkowski voted against repeal.  Now she voted in favor of the tax bill despite all of those people losing their health insurance.  Murkowski has been bought and paid for.  In the bill there is a provision allowing  for oil drilling in the Alaska wilderness.  What does that have to do with taxes you may ask.  The answer is "nothing  "  She named her price.  She's hopeless.
              The house and senate are trying to get this done in the next 10 days. Now is the time to hit the phones and emails. We can still do it.  We need only one or two Senators. To email the senators you use the last name followed by .senate. gov.  So as an example, Flake is www.flake.senate.gov.  Phone numbers are as follows;
                                1.Collins                       202-224-2523

                                2. Capito                      202-224-6432

                                3. Flake                        202-224-4521

                                 4. McCain                    202-224-2235

                                 5. Moran                      202-224-6521

                                 6. Paul                         202-224-3521

                                 7.  Corker                    202-2243344

       I threw in Moran because he's from Kansas.  Everyone in Kansas knows that deficit spending was a disaster.  I threw in Paul because he claims to be a man of principle  He despises Trump.  He's so weird he might just turn.  I argue to the conservatives that I don't need a tax cut.  But with this bi I get a tax cut and my children and grandchildren pay for it.  Corker should be called just to praise him.

                                                                           Richard Lenter

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump through a Jewish prism

   Can I write anything that has not already been written about the latest craziness of our despicable president?  I will give it a try. As you know, I often look at world events through a Jewish prism.  I take great pride in being part of the same tribe with Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, Carl  and Sandy Levin,  and Hank Greenberg to name a few.  I have particular antipathy to any Jew who voted for Chump.  The antipathy has turned to abhorrence  for any Jew who continues to support Chump after this last week.  Jews are the primary targets of Neo-Nazis. In fact, during Friday night services at a synagogue in Charlottesville, neo Nazis stood across the street from the synagogue armed with assault weapons shouting vile antisemitic   epithets.  While African Americans are the primary targets of the Ku Klux Klan, Jews are secondary targets.  This may be in part because Jews historically have been an important element of the civil rights movement.  So here is my view through the prism.
      Start with Jared Kushner.  His father was a crook and he's a crook.  Nevertheless, I recognize the difficult  position his father in law has put him in.  Kushner's paternal grandparents were survivors of the holocaust.  German Jews watched in horror Nazi hordes marching through the streets with swastika flags.  I wonder if Jared imagined how his grandparents would have reacted to Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville with swastika flags.  Ivanka tweeted a relatively good statement about the evils of Nazism  and the KKK.  Jared has not yet been able to screw up the courage to rebuke his father in law.  The rabbi who converted Ivanka has signed a beautiful letter excoriating Trump.  Where is Jared?  We know the history of those who remained silent. 
       Chump's famous "news conference" happened on Monday. That was when he stated for the first time, but not the last, that there were many good people among the KKK  and Neo Nazi demonstrators.  He also said the counter protesters were equally to blame.  Standing directly behind Chump were Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin, both of whom are Jewish. Cohen is Chump's principal economic  adviser.    It has been widely reported that Cohn was terribly upset by Chump's remarks.  I would say that being "upset" is not enough   He should have been horrified.  Cohn is a huge philanthropist,  Much of his philanthropy is directed to Jewish organizations.  Cohn should have quit by now.  
        Mnuchin is our Secretary Of Treasury.  He was an early supporter of Chump.  It turns out that Mnuchin is a mini Trump.  He is a multibillionaire.  This year he married for the third time.  His new wife is a bombshell actress twenty years younger than him.  Also, it does not appear that he is at all philanthropic, just like Chump.   He may have made billions will owning a bank that aggressively foreclosed on people's homes.  Sounds like Chump tactics.  Wife no. 2 was very philanthropic, but Mnuchen dumped her. Wickepedia does not have any information to suggest that Mnuchin has any close ties to his Jewish heritage.  Nonetheless, in my narrow view of the world, born a Jew you stay a Jew.  Mnuchin has stayed silent.  He should have submitted his walking papers with Cohn on Tuesday.
        I just read that yesterday there was a rally of about 200 Trump supporters in Howell Michigan.  For those of you who do not know about Howell, it gained notoriety  a number of years ago for being the center of the KKK in Michigan.  Among the speakers at the rally was Lena Epstein.  Ms. Epstein is Jewish.  She is running on the Republican ticket against our beloved Senator Stabenow. She headed the Michigan For Trump campaign. After the Access Hollywood tape she was quoted as saying she would not want Chump to be her child's Sunday school teacher.  But he was not running to be a Sunday school teacher, he was running to be president.  She continues to support this sexual predator and enabler  of Neo Nazis. 
        I  am proud that Jews supported President Obama and Hillary Clinton by margins of about two to one. Many of those Jews who voted for Chump  now say they regret their vote.  So I view Kushner, Cohn, Mnuchin and Epstein as outliers.  Still, I am embarrassed that they are members of my tribe.
       Chump keeps on giving, even as I write this e mail.  I am sure there will be more to follow.  Thanks for listening.

P.S.  We need to give a shout out to our wonderful Senator Gary Peters.  Gary just received an award from the Viet Nam Veterans Of America for being the politician of the year.  Gary initiated legislation that had bipartisan support for veterans who were dismissed from the military for reasons that may have been related to suffering from PTSD or from being the victim of sexual assault.  Because they were dismissed they were not eligible for veterans benefits.  Gary saw this injustice and got it reversed.  Great job Gary.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No Right to Be Healthy in America

By Harry T. Cook

Try to understand the strategy and tactics of the newly energized Republican Congress as first it wishes to seize from paying customers the health care insurance they were able to obtain through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP majority may get away with it, thinking that anything connected in any way with a former two-term African-American president can be canceled out without too much blow-back. And they may be right in that respect.
Next up for demolition: Medicaid. As a volunteer at a not-for-profit social agency in the inner city of Detroit, I have seen the results of Michigan's expanded Medicaid in the lives of many of our clients who live at -- and many well below -- the poverty line. Now they can actually obtain prescriptions written for them by physicians whose ministrations they can actually receive. Ours is therefore a healthier city.
Moreover, I haven't had to write a voucher to our local, God-blessed neighborhood pharmacist in nearly a year. Thus our agency can do more in other areas of need with our limited non-government funds.
Our clients are far off of the radar screen of the Republican Party, which, among other atrocities, continues to make it more and more difficult for minorities to vote. People on Medicaid are less likely to vote for GOP candidates anyway, and the party strategists know it.
Let's assume that they are successful in ruining people's lives by repealing the Affordable Care Act with nothing comparable to replace it. (I suppose they could just change its nickname to "Trumpist Care," thus to blot out memory of Barack Obama, which they'd like to do in any event.)
Surely the geniuses of the GOP realize that millions of voters who cast their ballots for Trump in November are insured through the ACA, but they must be betting that those voters will believe that their Man will fix everything in the same way that fundamentalists believe Jesus will come again.
If in 2018 the Republicans keep their majorities in the House and Senate and President Trump has not yet quit or been impeached, the march against Medicare will begin. Indeed, it may have stepped off already.
It will come when it comes under the old political cliché of "reform," which means in practice demolition. One of the plans being talked about would entail federal subsidies in as yet an undetermined but fixed amount to be given to those of us now on Medicare.
Gone would be Medicare as we have known it and paid into it from our first paycheck on after its inception 50 years ago, and by deduction from our Social Security benefits in retirement.
With the subsidies we would be free to buy policies from for-profit insurance companies who rank right up there with J.R.R. Tolkien's dragon Smaug for kindness and mercy. Such policies would resemble those of old with a thousand exceptions to coverage. In the end, we pensioners would find ourselves billed for the balance between what hospitals and surgeons charged and what the insurance companies deigned to pay.
I'm not much of a mathematician, but I can add and subtract. It will come to this: that people like me would be shelling out thousands of dollars a year for the treatments we've already paid for more than half our lives. Savings will melt away in a neverending flow. After all, hospitals and physicians have to be paid for the care and treatment that keep us alive. No argument there.
I've been a patient at Detroit's Karmanos Cancer Center for almost three years, and I cannot say enough about how expertly my care is rendered there from parking valets to clerks to technicians, nurses and physicians. I know the cost of the various scans I undergo every three months and the monthly injections ($14,000 each) and infusions ($36,000 each) I receive to treat my particular cancer. Without Medicare, even with my supplemental insurance, I would by now have put my family into bankruptcy. That I will not do.
I am declaring now for the record that if and when Medicare is destroyed by the mindless zealots who are running the U.S. government into the ground, I will refuse any treatment that would eat away at my wife's financial future -- most of which her hard work, careful saving and planning has secured.
If necessary, when the time comes I will decline anything but the cheapest pain reliever and go out biting down on a stick -- my left hand holding the hand of the woman with whom even in that extremity I shall still be falling in love. The middle finger of my right hand will be held high as I can in the direction of Washington, D.C.
I will hear in my head the words of Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.* I will see in what's left of my mind's eye the leering faces of the executioners in Congress looking down upon me and saying, "There goes another liberal. Good riddance."
As for those Americans who gave us the Congress we now have: someone forgive them, please, for they know not what they did. I am sorry to say that they will find out soon enough.
*A Christmas Carol. New York, NY. Columbia University Press,1956. 14  

Donald Trump made bold to quote "the Bible" in his inauguration speech. Said he "The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity." Well, almost, Mr. President. You were quoting Psalm 133:1 that actually reads: "Behold, how good and joyful thing it is for brethren to live together in unity."  Not just "God's people," sir, but surely including Muslims when they appeared in history, not to mention Hindus and Buddhists who pre-dated both Judaism and Christianity. Maybe the better quotation might have been that of Psalm 24:1: "The earth is the Lord's, and all that therein is; the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein." That rules out "America first."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How a Presidency Ends

  As a patriotic, American I want our country to succeed in every way I think is important. It goes without saying that I hated George W. Bush as president, but I wanted him to succeed.  I thought from the get go that the invasion of Iraq was a colossal  mistake.  Bush and his minions said that once Hussein was deposed, democracy would erupt and flourish.  Even though I thought that prediction was pure fantasy, I hoped  I was wrong and Bush was right.
     When Trump was elected I hoped that he was capable of changing into a normal human being.  Talk about pure fantasy.
       Now I am consumed with the hope that this dishonest, corrupt, hateful, incompetent  fool  fails to complete his term.  This is a terrible thing to wish for.  I wish our country were not in the throes of a constitutional crisis, but it is what it is.
        I was particularly struck by Frank Rich's column in the current issue of New York Magazine (attached below).  Rich presents an exhaustive comparison between Watergate and Trumpgate.  Rich argues persuasively that all of the elements of Watergate are present today.  He also argues that the antipathy against Chump is far greater than it was against Nixon at this stage of the presidency.  Rich doesn't predict that there will be an impeachment.  He does say, however, that the various forces now in motion may compel the cowardly Republicans to abandon Chump just as they did Nixon.  
      By the way, unlike Nixon Chump also has to deal with the twenty fifth amendment to the Constitution.  No one, including his political enemies, ever accused Nixon of being incompetent.  The twenty fifth amendment provides that the President can be removed from office if he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.  Make no mistake, there are plenty of Republicans in Congress who have looked at the twenty fifth amendment.
       I hope all of you have  much more enjoyable things to do today  than read this e mail and Frank Rich's column.  But if you have nothing better to do, enjoy the column.  Enjoy the Fourth.


Let America be America again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
-- Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Up for Grabs: The Survival of the Nation

By Harry T. Cook

During the Q&A period of a recent lecture, I was asked by a member of the audience if I thought the United States and its Constitution would be able to survive the upheaval of the first months of 2017. The substance of the lecture was an analysis of the Trump administration and its governance.
I began my answer with a complicated subordinate clause, only later getting to the verb, because I had to think as I went. The answer was that I did not know because we were on somewhat new ground with strange, unprecedented developments occurring on a daily basis. Therefore perhaps no one really knew.
Almost immediately I realized there was more to the question than my answer suggested. So I spoke of episodes in American history that might have caused people to ask the same question.
Surely, I said, our founding parents had to have been somewhat uncertain during the years between the end of the War of Independence and 1787, when the seven articles of the Constitution -- which did not fall to the ground from on high in their final form -- were finally ratified by 12 states.
Insufficient, as it turned out, the U.S. Constitution needed amendments and, after no smooth process, Congress produced 10 of them called "The Bill of Rights," ratified on Dec. 15, 1791. A number of representatives and senators came to see that, without the promulgation of such rights, it would be possible for the new nation to become a kind of monarchy of which they had only recently rid themselves.
Later in the American experiment came the Know-Nothing movement in the 1850s, which turned out to be a nativist political party -- anti-immigrant and dedicated to what they called "pure elections," i.e. keeping "impure" foreigners (many of them Catholic) from voting. It is said that an argument with a Know-Nothing was like trying to converse with a full brass section playing a Beethoven finale at triple forte. Along with the pride of knowing nothing, does any of this sound familiar? The country survived that with its Constitution intact.
Its greatest challenge came next: the ruinous War Between the States that left well more than 600,000 dead on Union and Confederate battlefields. A bitter war it was, not only over slavery but economic jealousy and the legitimate role of the federal government. Thanks to the steady hand of Abraham Lincoln, America emerged from those terrible years tattered but in one piece.
Jim Crow was soon to follow and remains today among the dark places in our national life, despite the 14th and 15th constitutional amendments guaranteeing equal justice under the law and forbidding denial of the vote based on race. Both of these amendments have been sorely tried. The racial uprisings of the mid-1960s were a reaction to those times of trial. By 2008, American voters had elected an African-American president, though the noose reappeared here and there in otherwise polite company and the sale of guns went gangbusters. Yet there was nothing approaching a secession crisis over a president with black skin even with the Ku Klux Klan lurking.
In less stable countries, the Great Depression of the 1930s might well have rent asunder its political fabric. That did not happen in America, and there is little doubt that the labors of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his team made the difference there. Revolution of the kind history has documented elsewhere was far from materializing. Just the same, the Communist Party gained membership among Americans who had ceased to believe that economic democracy worked except for the wealthy who had been smart enough to get out of the market before the crash or simply had more wherewithal that the bottom did not fall out of their lives.
A generation later came the anti-Vietnam War resistance. One could feel the red-hot anger against its waging, against the appalling loss of more than 50,000 American military personnel. The war was Lyndon Johnson's downfall, leading to the election of Richard Nixon, the first president ever to resign the office under pressure not only from political higher-ups but a disgusted populous. Collapse came closer than we might think at this remove, but the Constitution survived and served as the lubrication for a peaceful transition to a post-Watergate administration.
So now recurs the original question as to whether the United States and its Constitution can survive the strain put upon both by Donald Trump and his team of grotesques. The answer I should have given at first was this: "America has suffered worse. The Constitution has seen the nation through hell and back a number of times in the 230 years since its formative articles were ratified. That's no guarantee for the next 230, but, in the meantime, it is an enviable record."
* * *
On behalf of my editor, the good folks at Constant Contact who send out these essays at 6 a.m. ET each Friday and myself, I wish you a thoughtful Fourth of July holiday.