Tuesday, October 30, 2018

D. C. Trick-or-treating

     It’s almost Halloween and that means children everywhere will be scouting nearby neighborhoods for the best homes to visit for treats. As a public service for kids living in the Washington, D. C. area, here’s a list of the best addresses for trick-or-treating and those to avoid:
Bob Mueller’s house
     Mr. Mueller will answer the door but will neither confirm nor deny that he has any tricks up his sleeve. However, rumor has it that he will be handing out goodies in the form of Russian nesting dolls and criminal subpoenas.
Rod Rosenstein’s house
     Deputy Attorney-General Rosenstein is a very busy man. So don’t expect many treats at his residence. In fact, Mr. Rosenstein may not even be home or, if he is, he will likely be hiding in the basement with the lights out and not answering the phone especially any calls from White House numbers.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
     Leaked reports suggest that the resident/president will be handling front door duties himself this year with a seasonal pumpkin-orange face and corn-silk woven yellow hair. Those reports also warn that the only treats to be given will be autographed copies of The Art of the Deal and tax cuts to children of the one percent. As in past years, the President will not be handing out any of his tax returns.  
Number One Observatory Circle
     This is the home of Mike Pence who, along with his wife “Mother”, will be distributing delicious candy treats. Although the Vice President denies it, last year he reportedly wrapped each treat bag in a copy of the 25th Amendment.
Democratic National Committee
     Best to give this place a pass since the residents can’t seem to get their act together. Rather than decorate the front door and pass out treats, they tend to spend all their time navel gazing and arguing over who’s going to run in 2020.
Brett Kavanaugh’s house
     Brett will not, repeat not, be having a Halloween kegger at his house this year. If anyone says otherwise, he’ll deny it and refer doubters to the daily calendar app on his iPhone.
Bernie Sanders’s house
     With his wispy white hair and disheveled clothing, he looks harmless enough. But this part New York City Jew, part Vermont senator, part democratic socialist is really a scary Frankenstein creation who wants to give your kids free healthcare and free tuition.
Ted Cruz’s house
     He’s a strange bird - Canadian-born, Texas-raised and Tea Party-funded - and the only senator up for re-election with two right wings. It should be easy pickings for kids visiting the Cruz household since he has already given up his self-respect seeking the support of President Trump in his attempt to defeat newcomer Beto O’Rourke.
The Senate
     Senior Senators Chuck Grassley, Orin Hatch and Richard Shelby will be manning the Senate’s front door but not to hand out Halloween treats. Instead, they will take turns yelling at kids to “Get off my lawn!”
The House
     The House of Representatives will be closed on Halloween and will not reopen until after November 6th. It is hoped that it will then be in a better position to make some actual decisions.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Modern Know-Nothings

It's time for a serious piece of political commentary:

     Throughout my lifetime, there has been a rough divide nationally between the Republican and Democratic parties when it comes to presidential candidates. The Democrats have been the party of ideas, intellectualism and detailed policy prescriptions. The Republicans, on the other hand, are the anti-intellectual party of the common man.
     The two presidential elections of the 1950s illustrate this divide. Adlai Stevenson was the brilliant egghead with a detailed knowledge of policy and the workings of government. Dwight Eisenhower, on the other hand, was the competent everyman who cared little for academics and intellectuals.
     Although the truth was far more nuanced (Eisenhower was a smart, highly organized tactician), the public images suited the Republican Party well as they managed to exploit the anti-intellectual image over and over again until Americans now have an honest-to-God proud anti-intellectual in the White House.
     Republicans have consistently appealed to the uneducated electorate, be that Richard Nixon’s silent majority or Trump proclaiming “I love the poorly educated.” The problem is that they have played this card so often and so skilfully that instead of having a president pretending to be a know-nothing friend of the common man, the U. S. now has a bona fide, dyed-in-the-wool leader who proudly displays his wide-ranging ignorance.
     This trend towards anti-intellectualism gained speed with the elevation of Ronald Reagan to the office of president. Although clearly more experienced and knowledgeable than the current incumbent, Reagan was not the best and the brightest. The stories are legend of his mistakes, failures and screw-ups. Yet he, or those next to him, had the good sense to choose capable, competent individuals to run his administration.
     The Republicans savored the successes achieved by touting anti-intellectualism and doubled down on this approach with the selection of George W. Bush as their candidate in 2000. Bush proudly purported to be an anti-elite everyman notwithstanding his lifetime of privilege. As Jim Hightower once said of Bush’s dad, he “...was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.”
     In fairness, George W. Bush was not the stupid man that many portrayed him to be. Whatever one’s intellectual shortcomings, it still takes some brains to pick up an M.B.A. from Harvard.
     Many voters supported him simply because he seemed like the kind of guy they could sit down and have a beer with. Voters who thought things through realized that they didn’t need a drinking buddy; they needed someone more intelligent and experienced than themselves to lead the country. Sadly, there weren’t enough of the latter to keep Bush away from the levers of power.
     What this history of anti-intellectualism has wrought is an electorate that decries political experience and academic enquiry and is willing to vote for anyone who trashes the elites. What those voters don’t seem to realize is that such a knee-jerk reaction is not helpful to them but instead consistently results in Republican presidents who do little more than serve the rich.
     This approach has delivered big time to the wealthy but at the same time has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots to the point where the uneducated voter has no respect for political experience whatsoever and is willing to vote in the least experienced, least knowledgeable, least competent and least truthful candidate based solely on his faux-populist appeal.
     The Republicans have unthinkingly reaped what they have sown over the years in the person of Donald Trump. Right wing conservatives have gotten the tax cuts they wanted from Trump but now, too late, they have come to realize that they have let loose an anti-intellectual bull in the political china shop. His nativist, anti-free trade, know-nothing approach threatens the entire world economy.
     It remains to be seen if congressional Republicans are prepared to put a stop to the dumpster fire started by President Trump, admit the hypocrisy of their anti-intellectual approach and show Mr. Trump the door. Given that this would mean the decimation of their ranks in Congress, it seems unlikely but if they choose not to act, America’s future appears bleak indeed.   

Thursday, October 18, 2018

O Cannabis

     Well, it’s official; as of October 17th, recreational marijuana is legal in Canada. We’re the first G7 country to legalize weed and only the second worldwide to do so after Uruguay.
     The federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claim that the country is ready for this dramatic change and that everything is in place to ease the transition to a pro-bud nation. However, given that Canada’s provinces and territories are the ones responsible for regulating marijuana sales and use, it’s far from clear that it will be smooth sailing for weed aficionados. Each jurisdiction will have its own rules and regulations which may create confusion for those traveling throughout Canada, especially those under the influence.
     It’s likely that there will be lots of bumps to iron out in this new Cannabinoid Canada but those in charge seem to be up to the task. In order to minimize confusion and to harmonize marijuana laws from coast to coast to coast, it is rumored that the federal government will be taking the following steps:
*   Serious attempts will be made to standardize various provincial regulations. In the interim, the federal government will publish “The Dope Smokers’ Handbook” to help educate interprovincial travelers as to the cross-country differences.
*   The legal limit for carrying marijuana in public is 30 grams or about one ounce. The federal government is reportedly developing a new mini-scale phone app to help consumers stay within the legal limit.
*   Eventually, the Canadian government will also legalize marijuana edibles including cookies, chocolate and poutine.
*   Canada’s flag will be slightly altered to change the central red maple leaf to a red marijuana leaf.
*   Henceforth, the country’s national anthem will be revised from “O Canada” to “O Cannabis.”
*   Canada’s national symbol will be changed from the beaver to a stoned moose.
*   Canadian Thanksgiving will be moved from the second Monday in October to October 17th. (Contrary to some rumors, 4/20 or April 20th will not be proclaimed a national statutory holiday.)
*   Legislation is reportedly being drafted to severely limit marijuana use by federal politicians in Ottawa to ensure they maintain a high level of sobriety and productivity in Parliament. Some citizens are apparently lobbying against such proposed legislation on the assumption that the less politicians can do, the better. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

U. S. v. Anheuser-Busch

     It’s now official; Brett Kavanaugh has been sworn in as the latest Associate Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. For those wondering how he’ll perform, here’s a look at some likely future decisions by Justice Kavanaugh:
U. S. v. Anheuser-Busch
     This is an anti-trust action against Anheuser-Busch, brewer of many fine beers including Budweiser and Bud Light. As a subsidiary of AB InBev, Anheuser-Busch is alleged to have abused its dominant market position. However, as a longtime fan of beer in general and Bud Light in particular, I cannot countenance any divesting or breakup of this fine company. When I was young, I liked beer. I still like beer and, in my opinion, the best way to ensure a ready supply of that golden nectar throughout this great land of ours is to let Anheuser-Busch do what it does best: make beer.
Clinton v. Clinton
     As noted by counsel on both sides, it is highly unusual to have a divorce action elevated to the Supreme Court. But, when it comes to the Clintons, nothing is unusual. Some have suggested that I recuse myself from this case because of my comment that the Democrats’ attack on my nomination was “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” All I can say to that is “nonsense.” My many years on the bench have taught me to be completely fair and totally impartial which is why I vote to dismiss both claims and award costs against both parties.
Underwood v. Trump
     The New York State Attorney General initiated criminal proceedings against President Donald Trump based on allegations of tax avoidance and fraud. Apart from the fact that I can’t believe that our president would engage in such actions, I feel compelled to note that, in my opinion, it is clear that this Court cannot entertain criminal charges against a sitting president at least not while he is still in office. And even after that, I think I would find it hard to allow such proceedings given my personal knowledge of the defendant and his sterling reputation.
U . S. v. Judge, Tobin, Squi et al.
     This is an appeal of a sexual assault case involving several young men and an anonymous female victim based on alleged incidents from the 1980s. Notwithstanding that there is no statutory limitation on bringing such charges in the state of Maryland, I think there really ought to be. In any event, the prosecution’s case rested primarily on testimony referring to such actions as “boofing” and “Devil’s Triangle.” Given that the former only refers to flatulence and the latter is a harmless drinking game, I find that the basis of this action is without merit. Plus, these guys are my friends and I have their backs.
Jane Doe v. Faith Johnson
     It is ironic that this abortion case mirrors Roe v. Wade in almost all respects including the fact that the respondent is once again the Dallas County District Attorney. The appellant has relied on that 45-year-old Supreme Court precedent and also on my statement during my confirmation hearing that Roe v. Wade is settled law. Remember, however, that confirmation hearing testimony is not binding. What is truly binding is a promise like the promise I made to President Trump about how I would rule on abortion. All I can say at this point is “Promise made; promise kept.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Presidential Alert System Warnings

     FEMA recently tested its Presidential Alert system which is designed to transmit warnings to cell phone users across the country. Although the system is primarily designed to warn of natural disasters, missile attacks and acts of terrorism, apparently it will also issue actual presidential alerts such as the following:
*    Beware! The President will be attending a campaign rally event in your area tonight. Be prepared for blustery rants, abundant non sequiturs and outright condemnations of reporters, foreigners and Democrats.
*     Alert! The New York Times is releasing an in-depth report on the President’s finances. Those in the Washington, D. C. area should take immediate cover due to a likely onslaught of presidential fake news accusations.
*     Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and/or Barack Obama will be releasing a new book containing criticisms of Donald Trump. Citizens can expect a severe nationwide presidential Twitterstorm over the next 24 hours.
*     Attention! Attention! A hurricane is tracking toward your region of the country. Look for frequent but questionable presidential assurances of relief and support. (Not available in Puerto Rico or in certain blue states)
*       Be prepared for a severe outage of logical thought and proper grammatical usage as the President plans to go off script in delivering a speech tonight.
*     A severe warning to women everywhere since the President plans to comment on the issues of sexual harassment and assault.
*    Groups of Republican supporters are meeting in your region. Be ready for gross exaggerations of crowd enthusiasm and crowd size emanating from the White House.
*     Be on the lookout for an increase in presidential whoppers and mockeries followed by a sharp rise in dissembling and pivoting by Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
*      Presidential tax cuts have been spotted on the horizon. Hold on tightly to your wallet unless you are a member of the one percent.
*     Amber Alert! The First Lady is missing. If you happen to spot her, she requests that you not inform the President of her whereabouts.
*     Watch for influx of presidential assertions like “Many people are saying” and “Believe me.” Resultant increased falsehood count almost guaranteed.
*     Health alert issued for an aging Supreme Court justice. Expect a presidential flurry of potential far right nominee replacements.
*     Possible Democratic presidential landslide on November 3, 2020. Look for subsequent dismantling of Presidential Alert system.