Impeach But Don’t Send?

John Dean’s brilliant idea: Since McConnell has already announced the result of the Senate impeachment trial to Sean Hannity on Fox News, why should the House let McConnell have a Jim Crow style show trial and thereby further embolden an already out-of-control president? Why not impeach, not send to the Senate…and keep on investigating?

Check this out:

Please read. If you think it is a good idea, share widely. Perhaps if enough people are exposed to the idea and share it with their congresspeople it will gain traction.

This is not pie-in-the-sky:

(From #tribelaw on Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, and advisor to the Dems is advocating for the this:
BREAKING NEWS: Schumer’s proposal to McConnell. If he rejects these reasonable ground rules & insists on a non-trial, the House should consider treating that as a breach of the Senate’s oath & withholding the Articles until the Senate reconsiders.
Here is the link to Schumer’s letter:

And John Dean has weighed in on Twitter:

Let’s add some signs impugning McConnell’s statement for tomorrow’s gatherings.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Seeing Hannity and McConnell together on Fox might be worth a look (but be sure to take your blood pressure meds first):

CMR has it wrong. Tell her tomorrow

“It’s a sham,” says McMorris Rodgers. With these words she dismisses the rule of law and she dismisses the democratic values with which we all were raised. With these words she tells us not to look at the facts, facts she steadfastly refuses to consider, much less discuss. McMorris Rodgers has so sold herself to Trump that she and Dan Newhouse (R, U.S. Rep, Congressional District 4, central Washington) have already signed up to be the honorary co-chairs of the Trump 2020 campaign in the state of Washington. For McMorris Rodgers it is barely inconvenient, much less impeachable, that her President conducted a shakedown of a needy foreign government for his personal political gain. For her it’s not about the rule of law, it’s about her team winning, it’s about her personal political skin–and she has the gall to dismiss impeachment for Trump’s offense as “…a process driven by politics.”

As a Representative who took an oath to defend the Constitution, McMorris Rodgers is a disgrace. She is so deep in Trump’s pocket nothing will change the Nay vote on impeachment she will cast this coming Wednesday, December 18–but we dare not let her cast that vote without telling her we disapprove.

The U.S. House vote on impeachment is scheduled for Wednesday morning, December 18.

When:  Tomorrow. Tuesday, December 17 at 5:30 p.m.,  (plan to be there 15 minutes early)
Where:  Foley Federal Building, 920 W Riverside Ave, Spokane, WA 99201. This is federal property, so please do NOT bring guns, or any weapons, no drugs, alcohol, pot, etc. This is part of a national action that will include over 500 events nationwide.
Bring:  Warm clothing, a flashlight,
Signs:  If you have time bring a sign. My favorite messages are sober and non-partisan: 





If you cannot attend, please register your opinion with McMorris Rodgers’ office one more time. Here are the numbers:

Spokane Office       (509) 353-2374
Colville Office         (509) 684-3481
Walla Walla Office  (509) 529-9358
D.C. Office              (202) 225-2006

Or lodge your comment on her website at Register for her email missives. Respond to what her staffers write. Even we despair of convincing her of anything it is worth lodging our opinions.

Keep to the high ground,

Socialism v. Capitalism, What’s in the Words?

We tend to label things without defining them. Words are thrown around that drip with meaning. We talk past each other. Some use “socialism” as if it were the root of all evil, evoking images of social unrest, shortages of food and the basics of life, of totalitarian, all-controlling governments. For others “socialism” is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the assurance of basic human security. Likewise, for some, “capitalism” is the root of all evil, the fundamental force that concentrates unimaginable wealth and power in the hands of a few, a system that fosters rampant pollution of our country and our planet. For others, “capitalism” is the nearly sacred way to harness human ingenuity in pursuit of human betterment. In that view, the less regulated and the less taxed our capitalist system is, the better to unleash its blessings for the good of humanity.

We would all do well to step away from rigid definitions and preconceptions, to defocus the words and realize the truth lies somewhere between the simple buzzwords. Few (if any) of us, Republican, Democrat, or independent, desires the extremes built up around these two words. With that in mind I offer a copy of and a link to an article that captures something of the middle ground of which the extremes have lost sight. I offer the article because so many of the people with whom I correspond have cited it as a thoughtful treatment of an issue that has become extremely polarizing.

The article is quite long, but worth the time.

From the NYTimes Sunday Review on December 7 (click to see the original article with a lot of photos at
Finland is a Capitalist Paradise
Can high taxes be good for business? You bet.

By Anu Partanen and Trevor Corson

Ms. Partanen is the author of “The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life.” Mr. Corson is an author.  Dec. 7, 2019

HELSINKI, Finland — Two years ago we were living in a pleasant neighborhood in Brooklyn. We were experienced professionals, enjoying a privileged life. We’d just had a baby. She was our first, and much wanted. We were United States citizens and our future as a family should have seemed bright. But we felt deeply insecure and anxious.

Our income was trickling in unreliably from temporary gigs as independent contractors. Our access to health insurance was a constant source of anxiety, as we scrambled year after year among private employer plans, exorbitant plans for freelancers, and complicated and expensive Obamacare plans. With a child, we’d soon face overwhelming day-care costs. Never mind the bankruptcy-sized bills for education ahead, whether for housing in a good public-school district or for private-school tuition. And then there’d be college. In other words, we suffered from the same stressors that are swamping more and more of Americans, even the relatively privileged.

As we contemplated all this, one of us, Anu, was offered a job back in her hometown: Helsinki, Finland.

Finland, of course, is one of those Nordic countries that we hear some Americans, including President Trump, describe as unsustainable and oppressive — “socialist nanny states.” As we considered settling there, we canvassed Trevor’s family — he was raised in Arlington, Va. — and our American friends. They didn’t seem to think we’d be moving to a Soviet-style autocracy. In fact, many of them encouraged us to go. Even a venture capitalist we knew in Silicon Valley who has three children sounded envious: “I’d move to Finland in a heartbeat.”

We’ve now been living in Finland for more than a year. The difference between our lives here and in the States has been tremendous, but perhaps not in the way many Americans might imagine. What we’ve experienced is an increase in personal freedom. Our lives are just much more manageable. To be sure, our days are still full of challenges — raising a child, helping elderly parents, juggling the demands of daily logistics and work.

But in Finland, we are automatically covered, no matter what, by taxpayer-funded universal health care that equals the United States’ in quality (despite the misleading claims you hear to the contrary), all without piles of confusing paperwork or haggling over huge bills. Our child attends a fabulous, highly professional and ethnically diverse public day-care center that amazes us with its enrichment activities and professionalism. The price? About $300 a month — the maximum for public day care, because in Finland day-care fees are subsidized for all families.

And if we stay here, our daughter will be able to attend one of the world’s best K-12 education systems at no cost to us, regardless of the neighborhood we live in. College would also be tuition free. If we have another child, we will automatically get paid parental leave, funded largely through taxes, for nearly a year, which can be shared between parents. Annual paid vacations here of four, five or even six weeks are also the norm.

Compared with our life in the United States, this is fantastic. Nevertheless, to many people in America, the Finnish system may still conjure impressions of dysfunction and authoritarianism. Yet Finnish citizens report extraordinarily high levels of life satisfaction; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked them highest in the world, followed by Norwegians, Danes, Swiss and Icelanders. This year, the World Happiness Report also announced Finland to be the happiest country on earth, for the second year in a row.

But surely, many in the United States will conclude, Finnish citizens and businesses must be paying a steep price in lost freedoms, opportunity and wealth. Yes, Finland faces its own economic challenges, and Finns are notorious complainers whenever anything goes wrong. But under its current system, Finland has become one of the world’s wealthiest societies, and like the other Nordic countries, it is home to many hugely successful global companies.

In fact, a recent report by the chairman of market and investment strategy for J.P. Morgan Asset Management came to a surprising conclusion: The Nordic region is not only “just as business-friendly as the U.S.” but also better on key free-market indexes, including greater protection of private property, less impact on competition from government controls and more openness to trade and capital flows. According to the World Bank, doing business in Denmark and Norway is actually easier overall than it is in the United States.

Finland also has high levels of economic mobility across generations. A 2018 World Bank report revealed that children in Finland have a much better chance of escaping the economic class of their parents and pursuing their own success than do children in the United States.

Finally, and perhaps most shockingly, the nonpartisan watchdog group Freedom House has determined that citizens of Finland actually enjoy higher levels of personal and political freedom, and more secure political rights, than citizens of the United States.

What to make of all this? For starters, politicians in the United States might want to think twice about calling the Nordics “socialist.” From our perch, the term seems to have more currency on the other side of the Atlantic than it does here.

In the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are often demonized as dangerous radicals. In Finland, many of their policy ideas would seem normal — and not particularly socialist.

When Mr. Sanders ran for president in 2016, what surprised our Finnish friends was that the United States, a country with so much wealth and successful capitalist enterprise, had not already set up some sort of universal public health care program and access to tuition-free college. Such programs tend to be seen by Nordic people as the bare basics required for any business-friendly nation to compete in the 21st century.

So what could explain this — the weird fact that actual socialism seems so much more popular in the capitalist United States than in supposedly socialist Finland?

A socialist revolution was attempted once in Finland. But that was more than a hundred years ago. Finland was in the process of industrializing when the Russian empire collapsed and Finland gained independence. Finnish urban and rural workers and tenant farmers, fed up with their miserable working conditions, rose up in rebellion. The response from Finland’s capitalists, conservative landowners and members of the middle and upper class was swift and violent. Civil war broke out and mass murder followed. After months of fighting, the capitalists and conservatives crushed the socialist uprising. More than 35,000 people lay dead. Traumatized and impoverished, Finns spent decades trying to recover and rebuild.

So what became of socialism in Finland after that? According to a prominent Finnish political historian, Pauli Kettunen of the University of Helsinki, after the civil war Finnish employers promoted the ideal of “an independent freeholder farmer and his individual will to work” and successfully used this idea of heroic individualism to weaken worker unions. Although socialists returned to playing a role in Finnish politics, during the first half of the 20th century, Finland prevented socialism from becoming a revolutionary force — and did so in a way that sounds downright American.

Finland fell into another bloody conflict as it fought off, at great cost, the Communist Soviet Union next door during World War II. After the war, worker unions gained strength, bringing back socialist sympathies as the country entered a more industrial and international era. This is when Finnish history took an unexpected turn.

Finnish employers had become painfully aware of the threats socialism continued to pose to capitalism. They also found themselves under increasing pressure from politicians representing the needs of workers. Wanting to avoid further conflicts, and to protect their private property and new industries, Finnish capitalists changed tactics. Instead of exploiting workers and trying to keep them down, after World War II, Finland’s capitalists cooperated with government to map out long-term strategies and discussed these plans with unions to get workers onboard.

More astonishingly, Finnish capitalists also realized that it would be in their own long-term interests to accept steep progressive tax hikes. The taxes would help pay for new government programs to keep workers healthy and productive — and this would build a more beneficial labor market. These programs became the universal taxpayer-funded services of Finland today, including public health care, public day care and education, paid parental leaves, unemployment insurance and the like.

If these moves by Finnish capitalists sound hard to imagine, it’s because people in the United States have been peddled a myth that universal government programs like these can’t coexist with profitable private-sector businesses and robust economic growth. As if to reinforce the impossibility of such synergies, last fall the Trump administration released a peculiar report arguing that “socialism” had negatively affected Nordic living standards.

However, a 2006 study by the Finnish researchers Markus Jantti, Juho Saari and Juhana Vartiainen demonstrates the opposite. First, throughout the 20th century Finland remained — and remains to this day — a country and an economy committed to markets, private businesses and capitalism.

Even more intriguing, these scholars demonstrate that Finland’s capitalist growth and dynamism have been helped, not hurt, by the nation’s commitment to providing generous and universal public services that support basic human well-being. These services have buffered and absorbed the risks and dislocations caused by capitalist innovation.

The other Nordic countries have been practicing this form of capitalism even longer than Finland, with even more success. As early as the 1930s, according to Pauli Kettunen, employers across the Nordic region watched the disaster of the Great Depression unfold. For enough of them the lesson was clear: The smart choice was to compromise and pursue the Nordic approach to capitalism.

The Nordic countries are all different from one another, and all have their faults, foibles, unique histories and civic disagreements. Contentious battles between strong unions and employers help keep the system in balance. Often it gets messy: Just this week, the Finnish prime minister resigned amid a labor dispute.

But the Nordic nations as a whole, including a majority of their business elites, have arrived at a simple formula: Capitalism works better if employees get paid decent wages and are supported by high-quality, democratically accountable public services that enable everyone to live healthy, dignified lives and to enjoy real equality of opportunity for themselves and their children. For us, that has meant an increase in our personal freedoms and our political rights — not the other way around.

Yes, this requires capitalists and corporations to pay fairer wages and more taxes than their American counterparts currently do. Nordic citizens generally pay more taxes, too. And yes, this might sound scandalous in the United States, where business leaders and economists perpetually warn that tax increases would slow growth and reduce incentives to invest.

Here’s the funny thing, though: Over the past 50 years, if you had invested in a basket of Nordic equities, you would have earned a higher annual real return than the American stock market during the same half-century, according to global equities data published by Credit Suisse.

Why would the wealthy in Nordic countries go along with this? Some Nordic capitalists actually believe in equality of opportunity and recognize the value of a society that invests in all of its people. But there is a more prosaic reason, too: Paying taxes is a convenient way for capitalists to outsource to the government the work of keeping workers healthy and educated.

While companies in the United States struggle to administer health plans and to find workers who are sufficiently educated, Nordic societies have demanded that their governments provide high-quality public services for all citizens. This liberates businesses to focus on what they do best: business. It’s convenient for everyone else, too. All Finnish residents, including manual laborers, legal immigrants, well-paid managers and wealthy families, benefit hugely from the same Finnish single-payer health care system and world-class public schools.

There’s a big lesson here: When capitalists perceive government as a logistical ally rather than an ideological foe and when all citizens have a stake in high-quality public institutions, it’s amazing how well government can get things done.

Ultimately, when we mislabel what goes on in Nordic nations as socialism, we blind ourselves to what the Nordic region really is: a laboratory where capitalists invest in long-term stability and human flourishing while maintaining healthy profits.

Capitalists in the United States have taken a different path. They’ve slashed taxes, weakened government, crushed unions and privatized essential services in the pursuit of excess profits. All of this leaves workers painfully vulnerable to capitalism’s dynamic disruptions. Even well-positioned Americans now struggle under debilitating pressures, and a majority inhabit a treacherous Wild West where poverty, homelessness, medical bankruptcy, addiction and incarceration can be just a bit of bad luck away. Americans are told that this is freedom and that it is the most heroic way to live. It’s the same message Finns were fed a century ago.

If these titans of industry are serious about finding a more sustainable approach, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. They can simply consult their Nordic counterparts. If they do, they might realize that the success of Nordic capitalism is not due to businesses doing more to help communities. In a way, it’s the opposite: Nordic capitalists do less. What Nordic businesses do is focus on business — including good-faith negotiations with their unions — while letting citizens vote for politicians who use government to deliver a set of robust universal public services.

This, in fact, may be closer to what a majority of people in the United States actually want, at least according to a poll released by the Pew Research Center this year. Respondents said that the American government should spend more on health care and education, for example, to improve the quality of life for future generations.

But the poll also revealed that Americans feel deeply pessimistic about the nation’s future and fear that worse political conflict is coming. Some military analysts and historians agree and put the odds of a civil war breaking out in the United States frighteningly high.

Right now might be an opportune moment for American capitalists to pause and ask themselves what kind of long-term cost-benefit calculation makes the most sense. Business leaders focused on the long game could do a lot worse than starting with a fact-finding trip to Finland.

Here in Helsinki, our family is facing our second Nordic winter and the notorious darkness it brings. Our Finnish friends keep asking how we handled the first one and whether we can survive another. Our answer is always the same. As we push our 2-year-old daughter in her stroller through the dismal, icy streets to her wonderful, affordable day-care center or to our friendly, professional and completely free pediatric health center, before heading to work in an innovative economy where a vast majority of people have a decent quality of life, the winter doesn’t matter one bit. It can actually make you happy.

Recall these ideas the next time you hear “capitalism” or “socialism” thrown around without careful definition. Ask what the speaker really means by the word. Listen carefully.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. I’ve copied  the definitions of socialism and capitalism found in my electronic dictionary and pasted them below. Definitions are important. Please note that even in the dictionary the term socialism might mean different things to different people. Republican polemicists using the word socialism tend to mean something like Soviet state communism, whereas Democrats usually mean social democracy.

Similarly, polemicists on the left tend to use “capitalism” as the absolute of private ownership for profit.

The truth is we exist in a blended system and the actual argument is over the mix of the blend.
Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

• policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.

• (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.

The term “socialism” has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state communism, and social democracy; however, it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammeled workings of the economic market.The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended toward social democracy.

Capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

Muder on Barr’s Speeches

What Does Trump’s Inner Party Believe” is Doug Muder’s The Weekly Sift post from December 2. I value Muder’s effort to walk a mile in another man’s shoes, to see the issue from the other side even when he disagrees. That’s empathy–and as a country we have far to little of it.

The heart of this post is Muder’s analysis of two recent speeches by William Barr, Trump’s Attorney General (and long time supporter of unfettered Presidential power). Muder dissects Barr’s cultural arguments point-by-point.

Once again, I urge my readers to click the link and sign up to receive Muder’s weekly Monday emails from “The Weekly Sift.” (Signup is in column on the left side of the post.) This post struck a chord with a lot of people. This is my effort to get Muder’s clear thinking further reach. Please read and share.

What Does Trump’s Inner Party Believe?

by weeklysift

Like a lot of liberals, I have spent more time than I care to admit thinking about Trump supporters. Who are they? What do they want? What are they thinking? And most of all: How can they possibly support this man?

One reason this task is so difficult is that the Trumpist message is not meant for me. St. Paul was an apostle to the gentiles, but there is no Trumpist apostle to the liberals. No one in the administration is out there translating for me, explaining what parts of the message to take seriously and what parts to ignore. No one is trying to resolve the apparent contradictions, or to make the case that my goals can be achieved by his methods. One symptom of this is White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who appears on Fox News, but doesn’t hold briefings for the press in general. (Trump’s previous press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has joined Fox News outright.)

As a result, the most widely available version of Trump’s message is the one intended for committed supporters, who already live inside the Fox News alternate reality, where climate change is not real and racism was solved in the 1960s. So if, like me, you live in a world where Russia (and not Ukraine) meddled in our election, where health insurance companies would happily let people die if they could make bigger profits, and tax cuts don’t pay for themselves — well, there is no message for you. Trump’s world has an Us and a Them, and you’re a Them. You’re never going to be invited in.

The Inner Party. It’s easy (and very human) to reflect this attitude back at them: People support Trump because they’re uninformed and gullible. Or because he appeals to their deplorable passions: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or Islamophobia, to use Hillary Clinton’s list. Or because they’re rich and selfish; they just want to pay less tax and stop worrying about how much their industries pollute. Or because they just want power.

And if you look, you can confirm that bias: There certainly are Trump supporters who fit all those descriptions. (I’m not denying that point, so don’t argue it with me.) And I am capable of imagining a movement made up entirely of a cynical core surrounded by gullible and manipulated masses. But I have a test that I run when I’m considering such a theory: I picture it from the other side. If I were in that cynical core, how confident would I be that I could make this plan work?

And the answer in this case is: not very. A conspiracy of pure evil-doers is actually fairly hard to hold together, because the vast majority of people don’t like to think of themselves that way. Once you have a core bigger than a cabal, you need some kind of self-justifying story — not just for the gullible masses, but for your own people. There needs to be an explanation of why you are the good guys and why the things you are doing are right, or at least necessary.

To use Orwellian terms, you need an Inner Party message in addition to your Outer Party message. There are, I assume, lots and lots of Trumpists who understand that the Outer Party message is bullshit. I’m sure that a lot of Evangelicals, for example, realize that Trump’s knowledge of Christianity is superficial at best; that he has lived a life of licentiousness, infidelity, and fraud; and that his current administration is full of corruption. They may say “We are all sinners,” as Jerry Falwell Jr. acknowledges, and explain that Christianity is a religion of forgiveness rather than perfection. But they also know that forgiveness requires repentance, a step Trump has never been willing to take.

Republican politicians, likewise, are not generally stupid or gullible people. Lindsey Graham used to see Trump fairly clearly (and used terms like “loser” and “nut job”). They can’t all be intimidated by Trump’s sway over his base voters, either. Ted Cruz surely remembers Trump’s attacks on his father and wife, and having just won re-election in 2018 (along with ten other GOP senators), he doesn’t have to face the voters again until 2024, by which time everyone may have conveniently forgotten that they ever supported Trump. (George W. Bush was once immensely popular among Republicans, but by the 2008 campaign he had become an unperson.)

A lot of people who support Trump are not ignorant, and they are not all motivated by greed or fear. If this is all hanging together, and it seems to be, there has to be an Inner Party message for such people. What could it be?

The Barr speeches. That’s the context that I put around the recent spate of articles examining two Bill Barr speeches. Both of these speeches were given to what I think of as Inner Party audiences.

  • In October, he spoke to the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame, an organization “committed to sharing the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition”.
  • In November, he delivered a named annual lecture to the Federalist Society’s 2019 National Lawyers Convention. The Federalist Society is a conservative legal organization that is responsible for vetting Trump’s nominees for federal judgeships.

In short, these are both audiences friendly to the Trump administration, but are not the MAGA-hat-wearing yahoos that show up at Trump’s public rallies. Both groups see themselves as having intellectual heft as well as moral purpose. Neither would be satisfied with a screed of obvious lies or slogans like “Lock her up!” or “Build the Wall!”

So this is what Barr offered them: To the Catholics, he spoke about the impossibility of maintaining  liberty without Christianity. To the Federalists, he advocated for the Presidency to shake itself free from the “usurpations” of Congress and the Judiciary.

The Notre Dame speech. Barr’s Notre Dame speech lays out the problem like this:

Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large. No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity. But, if you rely on the coercive power of government to impose restraints, this will inevitably lead to a government that is too controlling, and you will end up with no liberty, just tyranny.

On the other hand, unless you have some effective restraint, you end up with something equally dangerous – licentiousness – the unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the common good. This is just another form of tyranny – where the individual is enslaved by his appetites, and the possibility of any healthy community life crumbles. …

But what was the source of this internal controlling power? In a free republic, those restraints could not be handed down from above by philosopher kings. Instead, social order must flow up from the people themselves – freely obeying the dictates of inwardly-possessed and commonly-shared moral values. And to control willful human beings, with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on authority independent of men’s will – they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being.

This cries out for annotation, which I’ll try to keep short so that I can get on with Barr’s argument: If you wanted a poster boy for “the unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the public good”, you could hardly do better than to choose Barr’s boss, President Trump. If you allow corporate persons into the discussion, Exxon-Mobil (which knew the danger of climate change decades ago, but spent millions to keep the public confused about it) or one of the pharmaceutical companies that promoted the opioid crisis would be a good choice.

And unless the “transcendent Supreme Being” decides to express Their authority much more directly than They currently do, God’s will is going to be presented to us through “willful human beings, with an infinite capacity to rationalize”. For example: the Catholic hierarchy, which for decades — perhaps centuries — had no trouble enabling and covering up the sexual misconduct of its priests.

This far I agree with Barr: If a free society is going to work, the public good needs to be supported by moral values freely chosen, rather than rules enforced solely by government power. However, the countries that seem to be doing the best job of maintaining a free society in today’s world are the least religious ones: the Northern European humanist crescent the flows from Finland to Iceland. In the real world, moral values and religion have (at best) a tenuous relationship.

However, Barr takes this relationship as given and proceeds from there: Traditional Christianity is losing its hold on America, and at the same time a number of social ills have gotten worse: births outside of marriage, divorce,

record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.

The causality here is clear to him: All these negative consequences come from an increase in “secularism”. Thomas Edsall offers a counterpoint here: If this were true, you’d expect the worst effects to show up in the most secular parts of society, but this seems not to be the case.

The white working class constituency that would seem to be most immune to the appeal of the cultural left — the very constituency that has moved more decisively than any other to the right — is now succumbing to the centrifugal, even anarchic, forces denounced by Barr and other social conservatives, while more liberal constituencies are moving in the opposite, more socially coherent, rule-following, direction.

Similarly, the highest rates of births outside of marriage are in the Bible Belt states.

Barr continues: Ordinarily, we’d expect the pendulum to swing back towards social conservatism. As people saw the calamitous results of social change, that change would be stopped, and then turned around. But this time is different, because America is not just dealing with the ordinary tides of culture. This time the story has an active villain: people like me, as best I can tell.

[T]he force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today … is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values. These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy, but also drown out and silence opposing voices, and to attack viciously and hold up to ridicule any dissenters.

Speaking of ridicule, here how cartoonist Jen Sorensen responded to Barr’s speech:

It is very popular in conservative circles to talk about being “silenced”, despite the awesome wealth and power conservatives command. But the truth doesn’t stretch quite that far: Conservatives, and especially religious conservatives, are used to being the only voices in the room. In the days of mandatory Christian prayer in public schools, there was no equal time for atheists or Buddhists. Gays could be characterized as “deviants”, and women who made their own decisions about sex as “sluts”. Conservative Christians could say these things in public, and no one would respond. No one would dare stand up and say, “Wait, I’m gay, and there’s nothing deviant about it.” or “What happens in my bedroom is none of your business.” No one would strike back and say that the Christian was “judgmental” or “bigoted”.

Now, someone will. Maybe lots of someones. That’s what the Constitution calls “freedom of speech”, but Christians are not used to hearing it. When their opinion is not the last word in a discussion, it seems like persecution to them, even though it’s the normal situation for everyone else.

Barr uses another religious-right buzzphrase when he talks about “a comprehensive effort to drive [our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system] from the public square”. As best I can tell, this refers to another revocation of a special privilege. Christians used to be able to use public resources to promote their point of view: prayers at public events, nativity scenes on the town green, and so on. In recent decades, Christians have often been treated like everyone else and limited to promoting their views with their own resources. (Barr may say “Judeo-Christian”, but when have Jews ever tried to install a Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea model on the town green?) This is quite a come-down, but it is not persecution.

Secular moral values, Barr claims, are different from Christian ones, not just in content but in kind.

Christianity teaches a micro-morality. We transform the world by focusing on our own personal morality and transformation. The new secular religion teaches macro-morality. One’s morality is not gauged by their private conduct, but rather on their commitment to political causes and collective action to address social problems. This system allows us to not worry so much about the strictures on our private lives, while we find salvation on the picket-line. We can signal our finely-tuned moral sensibilities by demonstrating for this cause or that.

This is absurd on both ends: One one side, the anti-abortion movement Barr champions elsewhere in the speech is not a micro-morality; it is an attempt to use the law to constrain the choices of other people. Conservative leaders (Trump, for example) often exhibit horrible personal morality, but they signal their virtue by opposing abortion or gay rights. On the other side of the question, Barr has completely written off a long Catholic social-justice tradition, from Dorothy Day to liberation theology. As Archbishop Hélder Pessoa Câmara once put it, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.”

To sum up: Christianity is at war against an active enemy. Secularists are not just trying to live their own lives as best they can, they are working to tear down the transcendent moral order. If they succeed, the result can only be anarchy or tyranny.

The Federalist Society speech. Barr’s Federalist Society speech inadvertently illustrates a point from his Notre Dame speech: Willful human beings have an infinite capacity to rationalize.

The claimed topic of the speech is “originalism”, the legal doctrine that tries to find the meaning of Constitution in the thinking of the Founders. Since the Founders faced a world far different from ours and could barely have imagined the issues of the 21st century, originalism provides boundless fields for rationalization. Like scripturalism in religion, the resulting propositions don’t have to justified on their own merits, because we did not think of them ourselves, but only found them in the texts written by our prophets.

What Barr finds in the Founders’ collective mind in this speech is a vision of executive power unbound by the other two branches of government.

In the orthodox reading of American history, the structure of American government got remade on two occasions: by Lincoln during the Civil War and by FDR during the Depression and World War II. In each case, executive power expanded, and has kept expanding in recent years, reaching the point where a President can unleash a global nuclear holocaust completely on his own authority. In my view, relating the apocalyptic power of today’s Presidency to Hamilton’s praise of “energy in the executive” is insane.

But that’s not how Barr sees it:

In recent years, both the Legislative and Judicial branches have been responsible for encroaching on the Presidency’s constitutional authority.[original emphasis]

Congress has encroached by refusing to rubber-stamp Trump’s unqualified and often corrupt appointees, and also by attempting to exercise oversight of questionable (and again, often corrupt) administration actions.

I do not deny that Congress has some implied authority to conduct oversight as an incident to its Legislative Power. But the sheer volume of what we see today – the pursuit of scores of parallel “investigations” through an avalanche of subpoenas – is plainly designed to incapacitate the Executive Branch, and indeed is touted as such.

In Barr’s view, this is pure harassment. There is nothing unusual in the Trump administration’s actions that invites these investigations. The most he will grant is this:

While the President has certainly thrown out the traditional Beltway playbook, he was upfront about that beforehand, and the people voted for him.

Of course, the people did not vote for him; the Electoral College did. But leave that aside. Fundamentally, the conflicts with Congress arise because, as in the Notre Dame speech, liberals are villains.

In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.

It’s weird to pull this back to the Notre Dame speech, where conservatives treat religion as their politics. What is an illegitimate “abstract ideal of perfection” for liberals becomes the “moral values” of a “transcendent Supreme Being” when conservatives do it. And what is the conservative project, if not to push women and gays back into an Eisenhower Era “abstract ideal of perfection”? What Barr says here in polemic terms about liberals is just the plain and simple truth when applied to the politics of the Notre Dame speech: Barr quite literally is on a “holy mission” to “remake man and society”. He literally, not figuratively, sees himself “pursing a deific end”.

And that conclusion about using “any means necessary to gain momentary advantage” without asking “whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct” is a hair-pulling bit of projection. I mean, does Barr think withholding appropriated funds to coerce a foreign government into doing the President a political favor should be a “general rule of conduct”? Should the President routinely declare a state of emergency whenever Congress refuses to appropriate money for his pet projects? Should the Senate routinely refuse to hold hearings on Supreme Court nominees when the President is of a different party?

Conservatives, in Barr’s view, have failed by being too nice.

conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy [fire], especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.

His judicial encroachments on executive power are similar: In his view, the number of court orders stopping Trump from doing what he wants has nothing to do with Trump wanting to do illegal things (like discriminate against Muslims or ignore our asylum laws); it’s just harassment.

Also, he sees no judicial power to arbitrate disputes between Congress and the President, like the current cases about the Wall “emergency” or whether Trump can stop his officials from testifying before impeachment hearings. What this means in practice is that the President has whatever powers he says he has. If, say, the President were simply to instruct the Treasury to start writing checks for all kinds of things Congress had never voted on, it would be a gross usurpation of Congress’ power. But what could Congress do about it on its own? It could pass more laws that the President could ignore, and the usurpations would continue.

He concludes with this:

In this partisan age, we should take special care not to allow the passions of the moment to cause us to permanently disfigure the genius of our Constitutional structure. As we look back over the sweep of American history, it has been the American Presidency that has best fulfilled the vision of the Founders. It has brought to our Republic a dynamism and effectiveness that other democracies have lacked. … In so many areas, it is critical to our Nation’s future that we restore and preserve in their full vigor our Founding principles. Not the least of these is the Framers’ vision of a strong, independent Executive, chosen by the country as a whole.

The underlying issue. Ezra Klein brings in this bit of context.

Robert Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute, estimatesthat when Barack Obama took office, 54 percent of the country was white and Christian; by the time he left office, that had fallen to 43 percent. This is largely because young Americans are less white, and less Christian, than older Americans. Almost 70 percent of American seniors are white Christians, compared to only 29 percent of young adults.

In 2018, Americans who claim no religion passed Catholics and evangelicals as the most popular response on the General Social Survey. … [T]he age cohorts here are stark. “If you look at seniors, only about one in 10 seniors today claim no religious affiliation,” Jones told me. “But if you look at Americans under the age of 30, it’s 40 percent.”

That’s at the root of the sense of panic Barr is voicing. This time really is different, because the white Christian majority in America is being lost forever. But Barr portrays this not as a simple changing of the guard, but as the end of a civilization: White Christians must hang onto power, because the alternative is a society without the moral values necessary to maintain a free society.

This, I think, is the essence of the Inner Party message: Trump offers himself as the bulwark against this looming catastrophe. He is the alternative to the too-nice conservatives who have let immigrants keep coming, let liberals secularize the youth, and have been too slow and too tentative about rallying the white Christian vote, stacking the courts with conservative white Christians, and suppressing all other votes. If he cheats in elections, say by getting illegal help from foreign countries, that’s a necessary evil. If he suppresses any attempt to check his power or investigate his corruption, that, too, is a necessary evil. Ultimately, if he loses at the ballot box and has to maintain office by violence, that may be necessary as well, because the alternative is the end of American civilization.

I’ll give Thomas Edsall the last word:

The reality is that Barr is not only selling traditional values to conservative voters, some of whom are genuinely starved for them, he is also marketing apocalyptic hogwash because, for his boss to get re-elected, Trump’s supporters must continue to believe that liberals and the Democratic Party are the embodiment of evil, determined to destroy the American way of life. Relentless pressure to maintain the urgency of that threat is crucial to Trump’s political survival.

And that, I believe, is the Inner Party message.

Keep to the high ground,

“Independent” Money in the Spokane Elections

Spending by special interests in the 2019 Spokane municipal elections shattered the prior record by a factor six. Who spent it? What were they able to buy? What was the timeline and who was the instigator?

By October 30, a week before the November 5th voting deadline, “independent” expenditures topped a million dollars. The previous record for PAC spending in City of Spokane municipal elections was a mere $176,000 (established in 2013).

The 500 pound gorilla of independent expenditure was the Washington Realtors Political Action Committee (WA RPAC). Consider:

1) WA RPAC’s spending in Spokane elections in 2019 totaled $620,000, well more than half of the total $1,114,000 of all the independent expenditures in the Spokane elections.

2) WA RPAC’s $620,000 exceeded the money raised and spent by the official campaigns of the four candidates they supported ($601,000 was the total directly controlled and spent by the Woodward, Wendle, Rathbun, and Cathcart official campaigns combined).

3) WA RPAC’s $620,000 spent on Spokane is more than half of all the money WA RPAC spent on the 2019 elections statewide. Why us?

Spokane Valley resident Tom Hormel and chairman of WA RPAC takes credit. Here he is quoted in the Spokesman two days before the general election:

“If you’re going to get involved, you got to get involved to win,” he said. “If you’re going to spend $300,000 and lose, that’s insanity.”

He spent $620,000 of mostly outside money (See P.S. below), pissed off a lot of people, and still mostly lost.

The timeline of WA RPAC’s and other special interest “independent” spending is worth examining. Without the timing, there is a tendency to dismiss the whole affair as the usual political infighting, a face-off between builders, realtors, and various unions, ho hum, the usual stuff of politics. The data tell a different story, a surprise attack and a gross attempt to buy an election using outside money. The spending totals and the timing of the expenditures are all available at (The numbers I present are rounded to the nearest thousand.)

The opening salvo came from the Washington Realtors Political Action Committee (WA RPAC) with $176,000 expended in support of Woodward, Wendle, Rathbun, and Cathcart, reported to the PDC on July 23th and 26th.* All of this was in advance of the August primary election and long before any countervailing independent expenditures could be gathered and made. Directed by Tom Hormel, WA RPAC waded in with electoral equivalent of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For a Spokane election this was a never-before-seen incursion of outside funds. It wasn’t until October 9, more than two months later, that the first opposing independent expenditure (of more than $75 dollars) was reported to the PDC. An existing, but very new PAC (established on a shoestring in March of 2019), called Citizens for Liberty and Labor (confusingly listed as “CIT FOR LIBERTY AND LABOR, 2019” at the pdc website) was enlisted and mobilized to respond to the onslaught of money from the Washington Realtors PAC.

With WA RPAC in the lead, Republican interests lavished a total of 870,000 dollars ($620,000 of that was RPAC money) in support of Woodward, Wendle, Rathbun, and Cathcart. (See below at the ** for the breakdown.) Citizens for Liberty and Labor, playing catch-up, managed to gather and spend just 244 thousand in support of only two candidates, Ben Stuckart for Mayor (235K) and Breean Beggs for City Council President (9K).

Republicans, supported by WA RPAC and local wealthy interests, outspent Democrats and Progressives by a 3 to 1 margin. What did they get for their money? The answer depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist:

Optimist: All the Republicans achieved with all that money, organization, and strategizing was to maintain the status quo. Woodward replaced Condon for Mayor, Cathcart replaced Mike Fagan for City Council (NE Spokane). Both Condon and Fagan termed out, both have Republican views. The balance of power in city government didn’t change with their replacements.

Pessimist: Trump lost among voters in the City of Spokane in 2016 by a margin of more than 10,000 votes. That $870,000 the Republicans spent counteracted what could have been a massive loss for them. Moreover, they got Michael Cathcart, a realtor/developer favorite, instead of a far right Northwest Grassroots type who might have been a problem for real estate interests (Tim Benn).

Keep to the high ground,

*The “Spokane Good Governance Alliance,” funded by a few wealthy localswith interests in real estate and Republican politics, reported a $10,000 expenditure in favor of Woodward on July 30, further upping the ante before the Primary.

P.S. The galling thing about WA RPAC is its support of a slate of obviously doctrinaire Republican (but nominally “non-partisan”) candidates, mostly political neophytes, using money from all over Washington State. The money that came from local realtors was largely gathered in $35 amounts from often unsuspecting realtors who checked the box on their membership renewal. If I were a realtor, I’d be pissed.

The total contributions to WA RPAC’s coffers from the 986 contributing members with Spokane addresses was only $68,000 (of the $620,000 WA RPAC spent on Spokane’s elections). Nine hundred and ten of those 986 Spokanites (presumably realtors) made donations of $35 or less, i.e. they “checked the box.”

P.P.S. One more optimist viewpoint: Maybe, just maybe, Tom Hormel and his Realtors fouled any reputation for fairness they might once have had with the general public.

**Breakdown of outside expenditures:

Nadine Woodward for Mayor (423K)
Cindy Wendle for City Council President (343K)
Andrew Rathbun for City Council (NW Spokane) (66K)
Michael Cathcart for City Council (NE) (38K).
Total: 870K

Ben Stuckart for Mayor (235K)
Breean Beggs for City Council President (9K)
Total: 244K

Presidential Resignation?

Why did Richard Nixon resign just before the House would have held a vote on his impeachment? We were taught, I think, that the evidence against him was so compelling, the threat to our ideals so clear, that he resigned because it was clear to him that conviction in a Senate trial was inevitable. Maybe Nixon’s reasoning was simpler than that, as Robert Reich points out in a recent piece in The Guardian. Passage of articles of impeachment by the full House may render a President unpardonable. It’s right there in our Constitution (the bold is mine):

The Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section. 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

That’s plain English. Remember that impeachment is equivalent to indictment, not conviction. Impeachment is “the action of calling into question the integrity or validity of something.” It is the Senate trial that determines whether an official is removed from office. The House impeaches, the Senate holds a trial.

If Trump understands this, then he understands what is at stake in a full House vote on impeachment, a vote that could occur before Christmas. He is already under investigation for alleged crimes in the State of New York, state crimes that the federal President (Pence?) is not authorized to pardon. Were Trump impeached by a full House vote, he would be rendered unpardonable for federal crimes as well. He and his allies now claim that, as President, he is not currently liable, but once he is no longer President that immunity evaporates. A full House vote to impeach him would cost him the chance of a pardon, precisely the pardon Nixon got (negotiated?) with Gerald Ford. Does this awareness help explain Trump’s and his defenders’ increasing shrillness as the House proceeds?

Will Trump make this calculation and resign? Not likely. His instinct is to push division and conflict, hoping the propaganda machine he has assembled, his blaming the supposed evil forces of the “deep state,” will keep him in power by harnessing public opinion–broader concerns about the integrity of our governance and our Constitution be damned.

Much has been written over the years about Republicans and Democrats in the time of Nixon, statesman who leaned on Nixon to resign for the good of the country, fearing for the foundations of our governance, statesman who put their oath to the principles upon which this country was founded above their allegiance to their party and to Richard Nixon the man. Nixon chose an abruptly announced, face-saving exit, an exit complete with a presidential library and a mixed legacy. Nixon got all that in part because he resigned. The country was saved by Ford’s pardon of Nixon from a broader convulsion that would likely have followed a prosecution of Nixon’s crime after he left office. It is this chance of a pardon that Trump may be about to give up.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. My initial reaction to Robert Reich’s article was to dismiss it, noting I hadn’t heard any such thing before and there was probably some precedent, some legal opinion, that would undercut the plain words. However, consider this: We have never before had a President in office with so much obvious legal liability swirling around him, so many possibilities for prosecution after his presidency. There is no precedent–there are just the plain words of our Constitution. Bill Clinton didn’t need a pardon to protect him. Andrew Johnson’s impeachable offenses were arguments around Presidential vs. Congressional power, not crimes committed in the private sector. Nixon had enough sense of honor and respect for the country that he resigned rather than fight. If Trump has any such noble instincts he has yet to show them.

P.P.S. Andrew Johnson, after survival of his impeachment trial in the Senate, returned to Tennessee after his presidency ended in 1868 (Johnson did not run in the 1868 election). He eventually returned to politics. He went back to Washington in 1875, elected to the U.S. Senate by the legislature of Tennessee (that was before the 17th Amendment in 1912 that made Senators subject to the popular vote). Johnson’s return to Washington was made possible in part by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the suppression of voting of African Americans, and their resultant lack of voice in the Tennessee legislature, all of which Johnson’s policies as President tended to promote. Can you imagine Donald Trump quietly leaving office and pursuing a career as a politician? (See the section under Andrew Johnson “Post-presidency and return to Senate” in wikipedia.

Our Regional Reputation

Matt Shea, Northwest Grassroots, and Rod Higgins, Mayor of the City of Spokane Valley, are making national news, this time in the Los Angeles Times, further sullying our region’s reputation in the eyes of the rest of the country. We need to pay attention, not by decrying the publicity, but by reacting to it in a way that makes news and deals with these putrid ideologies that have once again emerged in our midst. The last time our regional reasons for shame were so much on display was during the time of Richard Butler and the Aryan Nationscompound near Hayden Lake (intermittently in the news between 1980 and 2000). The implicit message of the article: the Aryan Nations compound has been bulldozed, but the ideology it nurtured never went away.

I encourage everyone to click and read the LA Times article, “Far-right Washington state lawmaker faces backlash against white nationalism.” Besides Matt Shea (WA LD4 Rep) and Rod Higgins, the Mayor of the City of Spokane Valley (at least until January), the article ties in the Marble Community in Stevens County and “…Spokane’s Covenant Church, whose Pastor Ken Peters, the end-days preacher who told congregants recently that the government was coercing Christians.” Peters leads the disruptive protests near Ruby and Division in Spokane, disguised as a church, “The Church at Planned Parenthood.

The results of an independent investigation into Shea’s activities was presented to the Washington legislature last Monday, December 2. It will be made public in the coming weeks. The terms under which Shea will continue to “serve” (or not) as a State Representative from Legislative District 4 (Spokane valley north to Mt. Spokane) to the legislature in Olympia, Washington, will likely depend on that investigation.

These folks deserve all the negative publicity we can provide them.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. During the time of Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations there were two schools of thought as to how to deal with such hate groups: 1) Ignore them, don’t give them a platform, and they’ll eventually get tired and go away vs. 2) Shine a spotlight on them, shame them, attack them by all legal means. With people like Shea, Higgins, and Heather Scott (ID State Rep from North Idaho) having infiltrated our governance and with websites and Facebook already providing a glossy platform  (check out the Church at Planned Parenthood website or the Liberty State website) the time for ignoring these people is long past.