26 July 2017


1200 by Jeff Hess

170725 pnc ccpc rover pipeline

From the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus:

WHEN: Noon, Today, Wednesday, 26 July.
WHERE: PNC Bank, 1900 E. 9th St., Cleveland.

PNC is a major financier of the Rover Pipeline. Why is this a bad thing? The Rover Pipeline will run 365 miles across Ohio to transport fracked gas to the Gulf of Mexico and Canada from Marcellus and Utica shale deposits in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It will cross—and endanger the integrity—of 18 major streams and rivers in Ohio. It will further delay our shift to renewable sources of energy, and the methane coming from wells will accelerate global warming.

PNC is financing the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners. ETP has a reputation for reckless disregard of environmental protections, numerous oil and drilling fluid spills and utter contempt for any community or landowner who gets in its way. During the first five weeks of the project in Ohio, ETP crews racked up 18 violations of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

The worst spill happened in April, when a 2 million-gallon ETP spill of drilling fluid buried a protected Ohio wetland in Stark County under an area equivalent to 8 football fields. Areas that have suffered such spills never recover. Ohio has fined ETP for this spill, and the Federal Energy Resource Commission has suspended ETP from any drilling for the project.

Energy Transfer Partners was a prime backer of the DAPL pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a coalition of native American tribes fought through 2016 in the face of militarized police and security agencies, and mass arrests that have been repudiated by the courts.

For more information call Randy Cunningham at 216.245.1073 or email at randino49@gmail.com. Demonstration sponsored by the Cleveland Environmental Action Network

For much, much more on Energy Transfer Partners and the Rover Pipe line visit: GLOBAL WARMING/CLIMATE CHANGE… and other continuing coverage.

26 July 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

From The National Review:

[President Donald Joh]Trump is not a victim. He is the hamster spinning the wheel in the massive Rube Goldberg machine that is the spectacle of presidential dysfunction. —Jonah Goldberg

26 July 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

I should have called Senator Robert Jones Portman yesterday, but I didn’t. That’s on me. This morning, however, I did call (and write) the senator’s office and left this message:

Good morning.

My name is Jeff Hess and I live in North Royalton, Ohio.

I’m calling this morning to encourage Senator Rob Portman to not fear the blatant threat President Donald Trump hurled yesterday in Youngstown.

The health, and very lives, of tens-of-thousands of Ohioans are at risk and I need my senator to stand with the people of Ohio and vote no on any plan to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act until such a time as he and Senator Sherrod Brown can present a plan to all Ohioans and say that have done what is right.

If half the Republican Party faithful can speak to Senator Portman at a dinner and tell him that voting to repeal the ACA—without a thoughtful and responsible replacement ready to fill the gap—is a bad idea, what does Senator Portman think the rest of Ohioans are thinking?

Please Mr. Portman. Do what is right and vote no.

Thank you.

You should call too.

26 July 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

Last week as I listened to the discussion on WCPN’s Sound Of Ideas concerning the invitation extended by the City Club to Corey Lewandowski to speak, the first question that came to my mind was: who thought that inviting Corey Lewandowski was a good idea. Only after the show did I discover the answer: my congressman, Jim Bupkis* Renacci thought getting Lewandowski to speak was a good idea. He, along with Lewandowski and President Donald John Trump, are part of a very small group that agree.

Henry Gomez has been covering the story in his new post at BuzzFeed. In Corey Lewandowski To Raise Money For Pro-Trump Ohio Gubernatorial Candidate Gomez writes:

Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who maintains an influential role in the president’s political orbit, will headline a fundraiser next week for US Rep. Jim Renacci, a candidate in Ohio’s competitive Republican primary for governor.

An invitation obtained Tuesday by BuzzFeed News advertises Lewandowski as a “special guest” for the Aug. 3 reception and dinner at a yacht club just outside Cleveland.

A Renacci spokesman confirmed the event.

Trump has not endorsed in the 2018 race to succeed term-limited Gov. John Kasich. But Lewandowski’s involvement with the Renacci fundraiser is the latest evidence that the congressman could be the White House favorite.

So, Renacci has managed to dupe the board of the City Club into inviting Lewandowski to what is tantamount to a campaign speech for Renacci.

Gomez concludes:

Renacci is an underdog in the GOP primary. He has the lowest name-recognition in a four-candidate field that also features Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. But he is the only contender who enthusiastically embraced Trump’s campaign last year after Kasich failed to win the presidential nomination.

Next week’s fundraiser will follow Lewandowski’s speech to the City Club of Cleveland, which has been criticized for providing a forum for the controversial political operative. (He was, for example, accused of grabbing a reporter last year, but simple battery charges were dropped.)

Renacci helped arrange the City Club gig for Lewandowski, who in recent weeks has helped push the health care legislation on Capitol Hill.

Cleveland, we’re being played.

*After extensive searches, I have been unable to determine what Renacci’s middle initial stands for. Until I can find a reliable reference to Renacci full name, Bupkis will do.


25 July 2017


1900 by Jeff Hess

Oliver Burkeman, writing in On being tempted by the call of the perverse for The Guardian, quotes a bit of Edgar Allan Poe on productivity’s hoariest demon: procrastination. Burkeman pulls only a few words from Poe but I was motivated to read the entire work—an essay-cum-short story titled The Imp of the Perverse. There Poe writes:

We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow; and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. To-morrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the conflict within us,—of the definite with the indefinite—of the substance with the shadow. But, if the contest have proceeded thus far, it is the shadow which prevails,—we struggle in vain. The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer-note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—it disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labour now. Alas, it is too late!

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss — we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness and dizziness, and horror become merged in a cloud of unnameable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapour from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice’s edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius, or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. And this fall—this rushing annihilation—for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination—for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it. And because our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore, do we the most impetuously approach it. There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient as that of him, who shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge. To indulge for a moment, in any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably lost; for reflection but urges us to forbear, and therefore it is, I say, that we cannot. If there be no friendly arm to check us, or if we fail in a sudden effort to prostrate ourselves backward from the abyss, we plunge, and are destroyed.

Examine these and similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse.

I know that The Raven was about a completely different subject, but I can not help to think that that singular black bird was Poe’s Imp made flesh.

24 July 2017


1800 by Roldo Bartimole

170722 frank jackson with umbrella roldo

Mayor Frank Jackson has spent most of his decade plus service to Cleveland catering to its corporate community.

It’s difficult to find where he has ever said, “NO” to the corporate czars here.

Now, he’s trying to make up to the neighborhoods he has neglected.

To me his actions come not only as surprising but shocking. I knew Jackson when he was a champion of impoverished neighborhoods. He was a man of the people.

He doesn’t fit description now and hasn’t for a long time.

Now, he’s trying to make up for lost time.

The above photograph was taken on a rainy day. At 8 a.m. The mayor, alone, not with staff, waves at passersby at 140th & Kinsman.

It’s as sad as it is depressing. He can’t make up what he’s neglected with a hand wave.

It’s impossible to make up for the time he has spent catering to a very different clientele.

His consent to whatever the Greater Cleveland Partnership bloc wanted leaves him at a disadvantage.

GCP, made up of the corporate community, plying their desires, can give him campaign funds. But not votes. They live elsewhere.

So weighing against him is his support for anything the GCP gang desired.

Be it the $50 million Public Square; be it the $300 million plus Opportunity Corridor; be it disrupting and costing RTA public transit; be it help to finance a new Continue Reading »

22 July 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

What is Ohio Republican Senator Robert Jones Portman to think when the grand ol’ lady of Conservatism calls his legislation mind-boggingly stupid? That being the tool of the American-Israeli Political Action Committee might not be a smart path? That accepting political contributions from some lobbyists might come with negative consequences? That the Constitution of The United States of America is actually an important document not to be played with? I vote for all of the above.

Noah Daponte-Smith, writing in BDS, Hypocrisy, and Our Barren Public Sphere for the National Review, ledes:

Sometimes in the course of our political life, someone proposes something so mind-bogglingly stupid that it’s hard to know exactly what to say about it. Senate Bill 720 is one of those things.

Regular readers of the National Review (or Conservatives in general) probably don’t recognize Daponte-Smith’s name and that’s understandable. He’s an intern. Rob Portman and his fellow sycophants can’t use that as an excuse to dismiss Daponte-Smith’s assessment, however, because his words were vetted by the editorial staff and, ultimately, Editor Rich Lowery. Daponte-Smith writes what he thinks, but Lowery decides whether or not those thoughts are read in his magazine.

Sen. Portman: withdraw your support.

22 July 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader argues that half of democracy is showing up. I put the number much higher, up around an Allenesque 80 percent. Showing up, in my book, includes doing your homework, understanding how to form a defensible argument; skills that are hard to find on Facebook or Twitter. We are powerless only if we choose to be.

In Detecting What Unravels Our Society—Bottom-up and Top-down, Nader writes:

The unraveling of a society’s institutions, stability and reasonable order does not sound alarms to forewarn the citizenry, apart from economic yardsticks measuring poverty, jobs, wages, health, savings, profits and other matters economic.

However, we do have some signs that we should not allow ourselves to ignore. Maliciousness, profiteering and willful ignorance on the part of our political and corporate rulers undoubtedly contribute to worsening injustice. Let’s consider some ways that we as citizens, far too often, collectively allow this to happen.

1. Democracy is threatened when citizens refuse to participate in power, whether by not voting, not thinking critically about important issues, not showing up for civic activities or allowing emotional false appeals and flattery by candidates and parties to sway them on important issues. Without an informed and motivated citizenry, the society starts to splinter.

2. If people do not do their homework before Election Day and know what to expect of candidates and of themselves, the political TV ads and the Continue Reading »

21 July 2017


1400 by Jeff Hess

Spicer’s run was the 6th shortest of 31 White House Press Secretaries. According to the Washington Post:

Spicer’s resignation on Friday means his run as the president’s spokesman was among the briefest ever. Each of the five men who held the position for less time than Spicer had his term truncated by special circumstances.

Roger Tubby (33 days) and Jake Siewert (111 days) were post-election fill-ins under lame-duck presidents — Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, respectively.

Jonathan Daniels (19 days) had just taken over for the iron man of press secretaries, Stephen T. Early (4,403 days), when Franklin Roosevelt died in office. Harry Truman briefly brought back Early on an interim basis before naming his own press secretary, Charles Ross.

21 July 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

So, before this morning I had never heard of Sergei Magnitsky and I confess to scratching my head reading about how the meeting between Donald John Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya (with a supporting cast of only they know how many) on 9 June of last year somehow involved the adoption of babies.

Now, thanks to Matt Taibbi, writing in Russiagate, Magnitsky Affair, Linked Again for Rolling Stone, I understand.

Why am I not surprised that gangsters, thugs and billions of dollars are involved.

21 July 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

170714 derf john backderf white middle class suburban man republicans trump

21 July 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

People who know me know that I am a rabid supporter of the First Amendment of our Constitution to the extreme that I think we do have a right to shout fire in a crowded theater. There is no more vital right of an American citizen that that of free speech. That is why I am appalled that my senator, Robert Jones Portman, is a cosponsor of S. 720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act which would would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine and impose a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

That’s a fine of $1 million and 20 years in prison for exercising your constitutional right to free speech.

All Americans, regardless of party must be horrified at this bill.

Glenn Greenwald, writing in U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel for The Intercept, concludes:

This pernicious bill highlights many vital yet typically ignored dynamics in Washington. First, journalists love to lament the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, yet the very mention of the word “Israel” causes most members of both parties to quickly snap into line in a show of unanimity that would make the regime of North Korea blush with envy. Even when virtually the entire world condemns Israeli aggression, or declares settlements illegal, the U.S. Congress—across party and ideological lines—finds virtually complete harmony in uniting against the world consensus and in defense of the Israeli government.

Second, the free speech debate in the U.S. is incredibly selective and warped. Pundits and political officials love to crusade as free speech champions — when doing so involves defending mainstream ideas or attacking marginalized, powerless groups such as minority college students. But when it comes to one of the most systemic, powerful, and dangerous assaults on free speech in the U.S. and the West generally—the growing attempt to literally criminalize speech and activism aimed at the Israeli government’s occupation—these free speech warriors typically fall silent.

hird, AIPAC continues to be one of the most powerful, and pernicious, lobbying forces in the country. In what conceivable sense is it of benefit to Americans to turn them into felons for the crime of engaging in political activism in protest of a foreign nation’s government? And this is hardly the first time they have attempted to do this through their most devoted congressional loyalists; Cardin, for instance, had previously succeeded in inserting into trade bills provisions that would disfavor anyone who supports a boycott of Israel.

Finally, it is hard to put into words the irony of watching many of the most celebrated and beloved congressional leaders of the anti-authoritarian Resistance—Gillibrand, Schiff, Swalwell, and Lieu—sponsor one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills to appear in Congress in many years. How can one credibly inveigh against “authoritarianism” while sponsoring a bill that dictates to American citizens what political views they are and are not allowed to espouse under threat of criminal prosecution? Whatever labels one might want to apply to the sponsors of this bill, “anti-authoritarianism” should not be among them.

Toadies works for me.

20 July 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

19 July 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

President Donald John Trump just told his base that he couldn’t care less about them and that if he couldn’t win his way, he is taking his bat and ball and stomping home to Mar-A-Logo.

Three corageous Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia and Susan Collins, Maine—are already taking heat for doing what was best for the people of their states, which is, after all, the job they were elected to do.

19 July 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

So, over the past three years I’ve been gradually working myself through Oliver Burkeman’s opus: This Column Will Change Your Life—yes, the title is tongue-in-cheek—because, like Burkeman, I have a lifelong obsession with being better.

For me, the focus began in high school when I stole the book How To Study Better And Get Higher Marks by Eugene Ehrlich. In my feeble defense, I discovered the 1961 book as a freshman and I was the only name on the library card for the next four years, leading me to take the book to college with me after graduation. In the 10 years the book had sat on the shelf, I was the only student who had ever checked the book out.

The only other book associated with productivity that I still revere is Time Power by Charles Hobbs. I actually own two copies of the book—I panicked one year when I couldn’t find my first copy and bought a second—and I make rereading the book part of my annual thinking retreat.

Reading Burkeman’s column from 8 December 2007 this morning reminded me of the plainly obvious lesson that if all you do is read about productivity without actually, you know, being productive, you’re missing the point. Burkeman writes:

Experience has taught me that there’s a significant problem attached to being the kind of person who gets excited by productivity systems—to-do lists, time management techniques, personal organisers, expensive notebooks and the like. Two problems, in fact, if you count the one about being ostracised by friends and widely regarded as not quite right. But, for now, let’s focus on the other one, which is that an obsession with productivity is, of course, anti-productive: a day spent tinkering with your system for getting things done is another day when you didn’t get anything done. Faced with books and websites offering a multiplicity of methods for living life more effectively and happily, the temptation is to borrow bits from each until you’ve built some huge, Byzantine structure with the twin disadvantages of requiring hours of maintenance and being useless.

A solution came to Burkeman, he continues, in a shift on The Web:

So I’m pleased to report the arrival, on the web, of a backlash—not from the smug, non-anally-retentive people who gambol spontaneously through life like lambs, but from within the ranks of the nerds themselves. This is a radically stripped-down approach to productivity, championed above all by the blog Zen Habits, which focuses not on grand systems but on heuristics. A heuristic, loosely defined, is a rule of thumb: a very simple behavioural guideline, easy to remember and implement, which, when repeated over and over, will end up helping you achieve your aims. The idea is to drop all your finickity systems and just live by one or two of these principles.

I followed Leo Babauta’s blog for more than a few months and found much that I liked, but gradually I realized that Burkeman had captured the essence in his post and that Zen Habits had become repetitive—which may be the idea, but, you know, time to move on.

Reading books on productivity is still a secret pleasure for me, but I’ve greatly curtailed this personal habit. These days I still read Time Power once a year, but I’ve gone back, way back, to the first century of the common era, to productivity’s roots reading Marcus Aurelius’ The Meditations and Epictetus’ The Enchiridion.

Sure, many others have put their spin on these two and made their message relevant to succeeding generations, but you can’t go wrong by reading from the beginning.

18 July 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

Key moments, for me, in the discussion include Jeremy Corbyn’s examination of root causes and his 15 February 2003 speech before Parliament and his take on the power of Social Media;

You can also read the transcript of their discussion at The Intercept.

18 July 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

After reading of the cowardly plan by Senate Majority Leader Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. (R-Ky.) to duck-and-cover by repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act without a viable replacement I called and wrote to my Republican senator, Robert Jones Portman, to let him know how I feel.

This was my message:

Good morning,

My name is Jeff Hess and I live in North Royalton Ohio.

I’m calling this morning to encourage Senator Portman to not kick the greatest challenge the senate faces—real healthcare for all Americans—down the road by voting to repeal the affordable healthcare act without a fair and just replacement passed by the congress and signed by the President in place that doesn’t condemn tens of thousands of Ohioans and millions of Americans to lives of suffering and early deaths.

I’m asking that Senator Portman do the job we elected him to do—govern and not pander to the billionaires who care only for their personal wealth; not our great nation.

Thank you.

Voting to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act without a replacement is a move I would expect from the senators from our neighbor to the south, not one I will accept from my own senator.

I also contacted Sen. Sherrod Campbell Brown (D-Ohio) to voice my continued support, to let him know of my message to his colleague and to encourage him to reason with Sen. Portman.

Here’s how Rich Lowery, editor of the Conservative National Review reacted to McConnell’s plan:

With Mike Lee and Jerry Moran declaring their opposition, the latest Senate health-care bill is dead. McConnell now wants to revert to what was his original idea of repeal-only. The problem is that the CBO score will be much worse—a projected 32 million fewer with insurance rather than 22 million—and even repeal-only isn’t true repeal (the repeal-only bill in 2015 left the Obamacare regulations untouched). If Republicans can’t pass what is, in relative terms, a generous version of a repeal bill, it’s hard to see how they are going to get a more stringent version over the hump—they may get Mike Lee and Rand Paul on board, but they will presumably lose from the left of the caucus. McCain is already out with a statement calling for a bi-partisan bill. If the current fight isn’t completely over, it’s certainly closer to the end of the end than the end of the beginning. We may well be witnessing one of the greatest political whiffs of our time

This is what the Grand Old Party has reduced itself to.

17 July 2017


1100 by Roldo Bartimole

170717 roldo hilton
Why is it so hard for the Plain Dealer (and TV news and Ideastream) to tell the truth about major league sports and the costs to this community?

Why can’t they take hard looks at the dollar/revenues of the three major league sports teams? It reveals how obscene treating the teams as welfare clients.

Why can’t they tell the public the true costs of supporting these profitable sports businesses? They are not non-profits.

They do have enough space or air time for this information. After all, the sports pages seem to get the largest amount of pages in a continuously reduced news hole.

Is it simply community spirit that limits their coverage?

You’ll remember how crazy the PD and TV went when we temporarily “lost” the Cleveland Browns. If you didn’t here’s a good resume of it.

The thrust of the news media in town affects the entire tone of civic life. That’s why it is so important. It helps decide what is vital and what’s rather meaningless.

So much just slips by notice. Hard to see what’s not there.

Tax breaks for the NFL’s biggest customer—Corporate America—NFL teams sell between $1.5 billion to $2 billion worth of luxury and high-end club seats a year, according to Bill Dorsey, the chairman of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors. A single suite can cost as much as $750,000 a season. Almost all suites and club tickets are bought by corporate clients, (who) write the cost off as a business entertainment expense, reports CNN.

The NFL is the most profitable pro sports league in the U.S., raking in an estimated $1 billion in profits on $10.5 billion in revenue last season, figures likely to increase this year.

Those massive profits are made possible in part by the billions of taxpayer dollars that local governments spend on teams, coupled with tax breaks worth hundreds Continue Reading »

17 July 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

170717 ballot box ccpc cuyahoga county progressive caucus indivisible cle state ballot initiativesFrom Steve Holecko at the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus writes:

The Regional Community Issues Forums are much like the Regional Meeting’s we had earlier this year. The agenda is the same for all of the meetings. Choose the date and location that best fits your schedule. Meeting Agenda: 1) CCPC update 2) Indivisible CLE update 3) Fair Drug Price Act Initiative and 4) Fair Congressional Districts Initiative. Speakers representing the Fair Drug Price Act Initiative and the Fair Congressional Districts Initiative will speak on those issues.

WHEN: This evening, Monday, 17 July from 7 to 8:30.
WHERE: Cuyahoga County Public Library Parma Branch, 6996 Powers Blvd.

Cohosted by Indivisible CLE

I’ve nearly finished reading Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics And Winning The World We Need which concludes with what Klein calls The Leap Manifesto. The CCPC and Indivisible CLE are precisely what Klein is referring to in her book’s subtitle.

We have to fight for the world we need.

I hope to see you at the meeting this evening.

14 July 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

[Update at 0546 on 15 July: see my inline note to French’s reference to Jonah Goldberg below and my comment this morning.]

Starting back in November, The Guardian launched Burst Your Bubble, a weekly collection of items produced by conservative journalists and writers on the administration of President Donald John Trump.

Reading these pieces is important for two reasons: first, any informed American needs to know what Conservatives are thinking and second, knowing what Conservatives are thinking is vital if any political dialogue is to be possible. This is an argument I’ve long made here in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s bastion of progressive values. I spent the first 18 years of my life in rural and small-town Southeastern, Ohio, where where seeing a face that didn’t look like mine was nearly impossible. There were, and are, Progressives there. My paternal grandmother was a suffragette and life-long Democrat, but in the main, Washington county is predominantly an old school conservative place.

Living there gave me perspective. Holding onto that perspective is important to me. That is why—while I confess I slip into irrational shouting at times—I invest the time in reading pieces that make me angry. Not to feed that anger, but to help me understand. If we insist on only hurling pejoratives and invectives then we’re royally fucked.

This morning I’m reading David French’s No, You Don’t ‘Take the Meeting’—bearing the subhead: Even the most innocent explanations for Donald Trump Jr.’s actions are naïve and dangerous—in the grand old lady of Conservatives, William Buckley’s National Review. French ledes:

Judging from conversations online and in person, the emerging Trump-friendly defense of Donald Trump Jr.’s decision to respond enthusiastically to an invitation to meet a “Russian government attorney” to receive “official documents and information” as part of the Russian government’s “support for Mr. Trump” is two-fold. First, of course you meet with someone who’s proposing to help you win your political race. And second, the meeting itself was allegedly unimportant. The Russian attorney didn’t deliver the goods. What’s the big deal?

Let’s leave aside the obvious fact that no living Republican would be making those arguments if equivalent news emerged about a Democratic president’s team and address the core of the argument. Yes, it is a “big deal” when senior representatives of an American presidential campaign meet with a purported representative of a hostile foreign power for the purpose of cooperating in that foreign power’s effort to influence an American presidential campaign. It’s an even bigger deal when news of that meeting emerges after an avalanche of denials and evasions.

As an initial matter, it’s amazing that anyone on the right or left is taking any talking points from the Trump administration at face value. After months of deception and misdirection, why should anyone believe the Trump administration’s account of the meeting? Why should anyone believe that this is the last shoe to drop or the only shoe to drop demonstrating an effort to collude with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election? And yet conservatives are rallying across the Internet, ignoring all previous false statements, and essentially saying, “Now we know the truth, and the truth is that nothing happened.” This isn’t analysis; it’s wishful thinking.

So, why do the 27 percent of Americans* in the voting pool who cast their votes for Donald Trump in November continue to engage in this wishful thinking? Arrogance, ignorance, cognitive dissonance, self-interest or perhaps they are in possession of vital intelligence that I and French lack? My money is on the former. French continues:

[B]y taking meetings with enemies, expressing a willingness to cooperate with enemies, and concealing those meetings, you grant your enemy leverage over your political fortunes. We do not know the extent of the Trump team’s interactions with the Russians. The Russians, however, do, and they know if the Trump team is lying in its most current round of public statements. If there are further contacts or more or different embarrassing paper trails, then that knowledge can hang like the sword of Damocles over the heads of relevant Trump officials. Can that impact their dealings with Russia? Will it? Perhaps not, but they’re only human, and human beings tend to act in their perceived self-interest.

I don’t want to use an over-worked term like kompromat, but compromising information doesn’t need to truly “turn” someone to have its impact. It can have more subtle and insidious influence, placing boundaries on your own behavior and causing fear that should not exist.

Finally, it’s naïve (at best) and unquestionably dangerous to cooperate with a hostile foreign power when you know that this foreign power is actively seeking to harm American interests. In their hubris, people are tempted to believe that they can use an enemy without being used in return. It’s silly for an American to interact with hostile intelligence professionals and then believe he can use that interaction for his exclusive benefit. In reality, it threatens to turn you into a tool of enemy interests.

The area of concentration for one of my minors at Ohio University was, the then, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I studied with a great professor, Dr. David Williams. Nearly all I know about Russians comes from that class. (A good place to start for those who know little about our adversary should read Hedrick Smith’s The Russians) The Russian government is not a friend of the United States. At best it is a competitor for world power. At worst it is our mortal enemy. The truth is somewhere between, but I’d lean toward the latter over the former.

French offers his own brief, but sound, assessment of the long history between The United States and the USSR/Russian Republic. His conclusion is equally sound:

My colleague Jonah Goldberg has given perhaps the best one-sentence advice for conservatives in these troubling times: “Trust nothing, defend nothing.” [Less than 72 hours after typing those words, Golberg would write in The Benefit of the Doubt Is Gone: Well, I jinxed it.JH] We don’t know the truth. We don’t know the extent of the Trump team’s misdeeds. We do, however, know enough to reject the administration’s spin. Donald Jr.’s meeting was, in fact, a “big deal,” and Americans who aren’t troubled are Americans who need to check whether their tribalism has trumped their good sense.

As much as Trump would like us to believe that he is still the star of a reality show, there is no show here and we are not members of tribes voting each other off the island. We are living in reality, not watching others do so for our entertainment.

*Consider: in November 2016 231,556,622 Americans were eligible to vote. Of those, only 138,884,643 did so. A staggering 92,671,979 sat out the election. That means that the 62,979,636 people who voted for Donald Trump represented only a little more than 27 percent of the voter pool. In no one’s book is that a majority.

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