All posts by Dr. ESP

The Death of Logic

 

Question of the Day:  Is the media’s focus on “a war on truth” misdirected?

There are two kinds of horror movies.  To prove this point, I will stick to films based on Stephan King novels.  At one end of the spectrum are stories, while gory, are not the source of nightmares.  For example, to believe in aliens disguised as clowns who pull unsuspecting children into sewers (“It”) or lonely high school students with telekinetic powers (“Carrie”) is not a matter of fact or fiction.  In contrast, the King tales that give me the willies are those that could be ripped from the front pages of any hometown newspaper.  Where a rabid dog (“Cujo”) turns on his master and his extended family or the obsessed fan of a series of romance novels seeks revenge when the author decides to hang up his keyboard (“Misery”).

Cujo (1983) - FILMGAZMThe difference?  To enjoy the cinematic treatment of the supernatural requires something other than evidence of its possibility.  Instead, all one needs is to suspend logic.  On the other hand, identifying with a mother trapped in a VW Beetle, trying to protect her son from a foaming at the mouth St. Bernard, is not predicated on a moratorium on common sense.  Anyone with a limbic system, the part of the brain that processes emotion, knows creatures and people like Cujo (portrayed by four St. Bernards, a black Labrador-Great Dane mix in a St. Bernard costume and stuntman Gary Morgan) and Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) exist in our world.

Which brings me to 2021 and media reports about the “war on truth” and how it might be won.  How do you get the 75 percent of the Republican Party who believe Joe Biden stole the election to accept he won fair and square?  Certainly not by reminding them 64 judges, six state legislatures and numerous governors and election officials tell them there is no basis for denying the obvious.   That’s now been done for over two months.  Perhaps it is not the facts themselves the non-believers cling to, but their suspension of logic that makes their acceptance of a Trump defeat so unbelievable.

Let’s look at a more logical explanation of an election where the challenger wins by more than seven million votes and more Americans cast ballots than any time in the nation’s history.  Logic, as well as presidential history, tells us NO chief executive with the following portfolio should expect to be re-elected.

  • Never had an approval rating over 50 percent.
  • Insulted ethnic groups which are an ever growing percentage of the electorate.
  • Was constantly outed as self-absorbed and incompetent by his own inner circle.
  • Separated thousands of young children from their parents.
  • Violated constitutional and legal norms to further his hold on power.
  • Lied to the nation about the worse health and economic crisis in over 100 years.

To believe in any other outcome requires a suspension of logic equivalent to that needed to accept a Native-American burial ground turned pet cemetery can reanimate a child tragically killed on a rural Maine highway.

Download PDF Dr. Spock s Baby and Child Care Full Online by Benjamin Spock - 873rgsw2eswfewfewfThe same is true of the record turnout.  Any parent has experienced the consequences of trying to modify behavior by telling a child they cannot do something.  That is Dr. Spock 101.  So, when GOP officials in several states did everything they could to discourage voters they knew would vote against Trump’s re-election, the response was as logical as a three year old drawing on a wall despite exhortations to the contrary.  How dare you tell me what I cannot do!  I’ll show you!  And show us they did.  Eighty-one million of them.

America has a choice.  It can fight every political and cultural battle one fact at a time.  Or it can encourage a return to logic, where all facts are viewed in the context of a more rationale backdrop.  And like charity, logic begins at home.  Consider the following.  Instead of trying to convince COVID-19 deniers to mask up by pointing to the growing number of cases, hospitalizations or deaths, ask them what they would do if a member of their own family was susceptible to a potentially fatal disease.  And their family physician tells them there are three or four things they could do to make a negative outcome less likely.  They inherently know what they would do.  Perhaps then you can have the conversation, not about 335 million Americans, but the 128.5 households, just like theirs, that are all having to make the same choice.

Bottom line?  If you want agreement on the facts, it is necessary to first get people to subscribe to the logical context and assumptions which can make the facts easier to accept regardless of one’s partisan or ideological prism.  It is the pending “death of logic,” not the “war on facts” that makes that task so much more difficult.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Russia, Russia, Russia

 

Among the issues that divide Democrats and Republicans is their attitude toward Russia and Vladimir Putin.  A February 2020 survey by Pew Research approached the question from several angles and found:

  • 82 percent of Democrats expected Russian interference in the 2020 election compared to 39 percent of Republicans.
  • 31 percent of Republicans trust Putin to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs as opposed to 10 percent of Democrats.
  • There is a 30 percentage point difference between Democrats (65%) and Republicans (35%) when asked if “Russian power and influence posed a major threat to the well-being of the United States.”

Since the residents of MAGA world have such an affinity for Russian and Putin, perhaps we should encourage them to look to Russia as a model which explains the current state of their movement.  I will use two examples.  One from personal experience during a trip to Moscow in November 1994.  The other extracted from this weekend’s headlines.

My trip to Moscow, as a representative of the National Governors Association, was in support of the U.S. State Department’s efforts to promote government decentralization by aiding the creation of a Russian counterpart made up of the governors of Russian oblasts, the regional geopolitical entities most analogous to U.S. states.  To understand the challenges these Russian officials might face, I participated in a seminar sponsored by the commercial attaché assigned to the U.S. embassy.  Also, attending were several graduate students from Moscow University, many who pursued careers in engineering.

Among the topics covered were the students’ career expectations pre- and post-dissolution of the former Soviet Union accompanied by government reforms.  I quickly learned any transformation from “cradle to grave” dependence on central planning would not be easy.  This was best captured when one student was asked, “What do you think you will do when you graduate?”  His reply?  “We have to wait until the government tells us what needs to be done.”

I was reminded of my Moscow experience when I saw the following headline on January 20th on POLITICO.COM.  “Trump leaves QAnon and the online MAGA world crushed and confused.”  Was Joe Biden taking the oath of office any different from December 25, 1991 when, as reported by the U.S. Office of the Historian (who knew there was such an office):

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet hammer and sickle flag lowered for the last time over the Kremlin, thereafter replaced by the Russian tricolor. Earlier in the day, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post as president of the Soviet Union, leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of the newly independent Russian state.

While it is easy to imagine Trump followers waiting for someone to tell them what needs to be done next, the Russian example is also a cautionary tale about ignoring their sense of loss and lack of direction going forward.  Even if Trump is gone, his supporters will look for a new leader as did the Russian people, culminating in Putin’s rise to power.

Kremlin Critic Alexei Navalny Faces Arrest As Flies Back To RussiaWhich brings me to the second instance in which Russia can be instructive, in this case, for Republicans who want to take back their party from the Trump insurgency.   They need only draw on efforts by Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to expose Putin’s corruption and abuse of power.  The difference between the situation in Russia and the GOP is the emergence of a champion who is willing to speak truth to power.  Or as the NRA president Wayne LaPierre might say, “The only thing that can stop a movement with a bad leader is a movement with a good leader.”

That responsibility cannot fall to a “never Trumper.”  It has to be someone who has been part of MAGA world.  Someone like Navalny, who believed the Russian people were more interested in the truth than sound bites as evidenced by the two-hour video in which he laid out, point by point, the harm Putin has inflicted on the Russian population.  Someone like Navalny, who knew he would face persecution upon returning to his homeland.

In Arizona, Trump's false claims have torn open a GOP riftMy nominee is Arizona governor Douglas A. Ducey, Jr.  Though Ducey has neither been poisoned or jailed for refusing to join Trump’s conspiracy to overture the 2020 election, he is now a persona non grata within the GOP, having been censured by the Arizona Republican Party.  Up until November 3rd, Ducey had been a fervent Trump supporter, campaigned with him and even accompanied him to “the wall.”

Just imagine if Ducey pulled a Navalny and produced a video in which he offered a mea culpa.  If he told MAGA world he too had high hopes for the Trump administration, but now realizes he was duped.  And lays out each instance of Trump’s corruption and abuse of power over the last four years, and admits he too wore blinders that limited his ability to recognize the danger that culminated with the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

I know some of you will say hard core Trump cultists will not be easily convinced.  And you may be right.  But what if you are wrong.  New York Times reporters Anton Troianovski and Andrew Higgins were surprised how quickly support for Navalny spread across Russia’s 11 time zones.

The demonstrations did not immediately pose a dire threat to President Vladimir V. Putin’s grip on power. But their broad scope, and the remarkable defiance displayed by many of the protesters, signaled widespread fatigue with the stagnant, corruption-plagued political order that Mr. Putin has presided over for two decades.

If you believe Joe Biden’s current 69 percent approval rating is less due to his executive orders or policy proposals and more to the contrast with four years of Trump fatigue, maybe the situations are not as different as one might think.  And now is the best opportunity to wrestle Trump’s grip on the GOP from his cold, small hands.  (Sorry, the NRA is just too ripe for parody.)

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

MY v. THE

 

It only took two days.  Republicans are already making the moral equivalency argument they are just following Democratic precedent when they say, “Joe Biden is not MY president.  Isn’t that what all you 2016 deniers said about Donald Trump?”  They are half right.  I was proud to say Trump was not MY president.  Primarily because I was not responsible for his becoming the chief executive of the United States.  But more importantly, for more reasons  than I choose not to re-litigate here, I never want anyone, anywhere, anytime to explicitly or implicitly  think I would possibly associate with such an indecent, un-American individual regardless of their station in life.

But here is the difference these one-conspiracy-fits-all advocates miss.  I NEVER said, “Donald Trump is not THE president.”  You do not support impeachment and conviction of someone who is not THE president.  You do not wonder if Mike Pence has enough backbone to save the nation he swears he loves by invoking the 25th Amendment for anyone other than THE president.  You do not spend six months doing everything you can to deny someone a SECOND term unless they are THE president for four years.

I can only surmise Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Kevin McCarthy and 146 other GOP members of Congress never watched the Sesame Street segment, “Which one of these is not like the others.”

  • Impeachment
  • 25th Amendment
  • Presidential Elections
  • Storming the United States Capitol

Ooh! Ooh!  I KNOW!  The first three are in the Constitution.  The fourth is only grounded in statute, in particular U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 115, Section 2384 which makes it a crime when “two or more persons … conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States … or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

During floor debate following the deadly attack on the “People’s House,” GOP speakers were quick to point out they were doing nothing more than their Democratic counterparts in 2000, 2004 and 2016.  True, if you believe telling your spouse he or she has not put on weight is the same as telling 365 million people an international pandemic will magically go away.  Or that 60+ judges, governors, election officials and state legislators of all partisan backgrounds are part of a six state cabal to steal an election.

In 2000 and 2004, objections involved one state each time, Florida and Ohio respectively.  In 2016 the issue was Russian interference in the election. In each case, the objections were raise by one or two lone voices, not a majority of the Democratic caucus. And in all three instances, the Democratic nominee conceded the election.  And none of the challengers invited supporters to come to Washington, D.C. and halt the constitutionally mandated process of counting state-certified slates of electors.

There is one more reason I never accepted Trump as MY president.  Recognition is a two-way street.  As I wrote on December 19, 2016, I acknowledged his constitutional right to sit at the Resolute Desk, but maintained my right not to support the substance of or his approach to governance when he suggested people like me were not real Americans.  At a “victory rally” in Mobile, Alabama two days earlier Trump told the crowd, those who rejected his candidacy were not patriots nor did they really love America.  Donald Trump had the same right to accurately claim I was not ONE of HIS people, but not that I no longer qualified as AN American as a result.

For the learning impaired let me put it this way.  When I look at a banana, I admit it is a fruit, just not MY kind of fruit.  I have to accept the fact it is a banana based on its physical characteristics and the process by which it became a banana.  But I am entitled to my own opinion whether to make one part of my diet.

I have no doubt one of the consequences cable news and on-line outlets will face in coming days is the dilemma when they do not have the benefit of breaking news from the White House multiple times a day.  News media of all stripes will be looking to fill airtime with insights about the state of the nation and citizen attitudes.  There will be occasions when correspondents will ask die-hard Trump voters how they feel about Joe Biden’s performance in office.  In many cases, the response may be, “He’s not MY president.”  How refreshing it would be if the reporter followed up, “I understand.  That’s your prerogative.  But do you recognize him as THE president.”  If the answer is, “No,” will that same reporter then ask, “Then do you believe in democracy and the Constitution?”

As the most trusted man in America Walter Cronkite used to say, “And that’s the way it is.  January 23, 2021.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

The Trump Legacy

 

A swath of Republican election officials have been held up as examples of how Trumpism has spread across the country to infect state and local government.  But that discussion has been about the rhetoric, not the execution of their public responsibilities.  Their message has been consistent.  “We are a new breed who will shake up the establishment.”

Shake it up they did.  When it came to politics, they kept every promise on which they rode into office.  Fear of the other.  Allegiance to big lies about democracy, the press and anyone who did not share their desire to bring back an American that as Margaret Mitchell wrote was, “Gone with the Wind.”

However, this is all noise to mask the true legacy of the protagonist of last four years.  On this day which will become the de jure end of the Trump era (as opposed to January 6th which was the de facto end), I am more hopeful than I should be about the reunification of America.  The reason?  Because one political axiom, above all, is more valid than ever.  GOOD GOVERNANCE MAKE GOOD POLITICS.

The legacy Trump and all the mini-Trumps leave behind is not division and chaos, it is incompetence.  More importantly, incompetence when it matters the most.  The past four years are riddled with the inability to translate rhetoric into action.  However, no visual tableau could expose this incompetence more than the 200,000 American flags on the Washington mall.

Americans understand this is in stark contrast to what Joe Biden brings to the Oval Office.  Donald Trump will be the first chief executive since the Gallup organization began tracking the president’s approval rating never to have reached 50 percent.  On Monday, Gallup reported Biden held a pre-inauguration approval of 68 percent.  That is 16 points higher than his percentage of the votes just two months earlier.  Why?  Even respondents who did not vote him for him said they were impressed with how he was handling the transition.

GOOD GOVERNANCE MAKES GOOD POLITICS.  Nothing Biden says from the West portico of the U.S. Capitol will make a difference over the next four years.  If the team he has assembled can usher in a new era of competence and professionalism, verbal attacks against “the establishment” and “academic elites” will cease.  Congressional debates will be about policy, strategy and tactics, not constitutional principles.  The primary mission of the press will return to informing, not fact-checking.  And the darker elements of the American psyche will be exposed, not as patriots, but non-believers in Madisonian democracy.

As Donald Trump journeys back to Mar-a-Lago, he will likely still be focused on how he could possibly lose to someone like Joe Biden.  The answer is simply.  When you are an outsider, it is easy to challenge those in power.  But as an incumbent, the metrics change.  Good governance, not slogans and rallies, make good politics.

As I am writing this post, I am watching the sun rise over the White House.  It is figuratively and literally a new day.  And I am optimistic.  As Ziggy said, “We call today “the present” because it is a gift.”  And though, under the circumstances, there will be no party, there is much to celebrate.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Friendly Fire

 

The question which has occupied Americans for the last four years, and especially since November 3, 2020, has been, “Is the United States a nation of laws or a cult of personality?”  When we use the term “of laws,” most people immediately think of the Constitution and federal, state or local statutes.  But the rule of law is subject to interpretation and context, otherwise there would be no need for Article III of the Constitution, courts or lawyers.

Even the Ten Commandments are not absolute.  For example, remember when then-candidate Jimmy Carter confessed in the November 1976 issue of Playboy magazine, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”  Was he struck down by a bolt of lightning?  No.  But he was sentenced to a four-year term in a federal facility.

There are only two absolute laws to which we are all subject.  Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  And the law of unintended consequences, “Any action has results that are not part of the actor’s purpose.”  Both have been on full display.  There used to be a third, Mile’s Law, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”  As hard as Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Kevin McCarthy tried to affirm this adage; Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and nine other Republican members of the House of Representatives challenged its universal application.

Let’s start with Murphy’s Law.  How can we forget Dave Chappelle’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live the weekend after the 2016 election.  Despite Trump’s victory, Chappelle reminisced about a recent White House occasion during which the Obamas celebrated black art and culture.

 I looked at that room, and I looked out at all those black faces, and I saw how happy everybody was. These people, who had been historically disenfranchised.

…it made me feel hopeful. And it made me feel proud to be an American, and it made me very happy about the prospects of our country.

In that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. and I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.

Like so many people who voted for Trump the first time, Chappelle believed the next four years could not be as horrific as Hillary Clinton warned us.  Give him a chance.  He cannot be THAT bad. And Chappelle was right.  He was not as bad as Clinton made him out to be.  He was worse.  Murphy’s Law confirmed again.

Read Liz Cheney's full statement in support of Trump's impeachment - POLITICOWhich brings me to the law of unintended consequences.  To understand what Donald Trump intended, one need only read the following excerpt from Liz Cheney’s remarks during the House impeachment hearing.

On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes.

That is correct.  The intended purpose of the mob Donald Trump “summoned” and “assembled” (again Cheney’s words) was to intimidate Democrats and the minority of Republicans who refused to cater to lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.  But that is not what happened.  None were intimidated.  Why?  Because the mob was asking for something that had no basis in law as had been explained over and over again except on Fox News, NewsMax, OANN and alt-right social media.

They intended to halt the mandate in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, “The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. ”  Although this imperative has been clarified by amendment and statutes over time, the ceremonial nature of this rite has not been challenged with one exception, an instance where two or more slates of electors had been certified by a state’s legislature.  For those who have not been paying attention, this was not the case in the 50 states or District of Columbia in 2020.

The intended targets of the insurrection did not flinch from fulfilling the oath of office they had taken for the first time or re-affirmed just three days earlier.  But it did find a new mark, the 121 representatives and eight senators who voted to overturn the popular votes in Arizona, Pennsylvania or both.

After hearing those at the gate demand Mike Pence be hanged, they capitulated to the domestic terrorists.  They feared for their lives.  Some have since confessed they were more concerned (and still are) about the personal safety of themselves and their families than for the future of their Republic.  Do not tell me terrorism failed on January 6th.  It scared the crap out of 129 duly elected cowards whose commander-in-chief summoned and assembled a volunteer army of faux patriots.  As it turned out, the mob did not keep Democrats and rogue Republicans FROM crossing a line at the door of the House chamber.  They are keeping Cruz, Hawley, McCarthy, et. al. IN line.

Fortunately, Mike Pence and others escaped unharmed.  That is not however true of everyone in the Senate and House chambers that day.   There was a hanging.  From the gallows of history and public opinion hang the souls and reputations of the 129 individuals who refused to speak truth to power or to their constituents.  And their physical presence is suspended in a state of purgatory where they have an unpleasant choice.  Either hold on to the “big lie” and their cultist devotion to Trump or repent and face the “friendly fire” from that very mob they emboldened that has now turned on anyone who abandons their “lost cause.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP