Fredrick Douglass

Conservatives seem to like to lay claim to people who during their life were by no means conservative in life, once they die.  JFK is one example.  Conservatives also seem to have tried to claim this giant of the abolitionist movement in the 19th century.  See this for an example.

It quotes Douglass extensively, but a bit selectively

Douglass From Hillsdale

It is hard for me not to think though that those quote were mostly a reaction to white supremacist views.  This Douglas quote from 1869 is suggestive:

  • Heretofore, the policy of our government has been governed by race pride, rather than by wisdom. Until recently, neither the Indian nor the negro has been treated as a part of the body politic.

Douglass lived in a time when white supremacist views were widespread, and following the Civil War were the basis rolling back much of white the war had done to advance equality.  I think it a real reach to conclude that Douglass’ concern about racial pride motivating taking the vote away from those of African descent, means he would be opposed to a shared pride in reclaiming that vote and other rights, and standing to not lose them again.

Also Douglass expressed views that many conservatives seem to be enraged by today.  When an African American player shows less than total enthusiasm for the national anthem-by wanting to honor issues where the country has not lived up to it promise-during it, we have our conservative President demanding they be fired or worse.  That said how would President Trump react to these words from Douglass:

  • What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

This would not please Mr. Trump, I’ll wager.

Maybe conservatives would say I’m taking this out of context.  Douglass said these words in 1852, and slavery was firmly established in much of the United States at the time.  Today it is gone, so maybe the quotes  about bringing the races together are all that apply.

I have trouble thinking that.  In the memory of people still alive, successful blacks were acted viciously in Tulsa in the 1920’s.  I think I know a fair amount of US history, but only became aware of this relatively recently.  Revisionist history to make the white south look better was propagated and still exists.  Monuments built to honor those who fought to preserve slavery and that marked the rollback of black rights in the Jim Crow south still exist and are militantly defended.   Blacks are much more likely to be subject to the death penalty, prosecutors work diligently to exclude blacks from juries, and policing seems a lot more aimed at people of color.

If Douglass were alive I think he’d stand behind views that conservatives would not accept.


Defender in Chief?

I agree with little of this, though I think they present their beliefs pretty clearly. They basically think the executive branch is the President more less – there’s no independent FBI or Justice Department, and if they are they’re unaccountable and unconstitutional. They see the check on the President is 90% the elections, and rarely impeachment.
This seems to me to allow for an unaccountable executive in the intervening 4 years. It also ignore that the legislative branch is supposed to be active via legislation, but more and more that branch seems nothing but deadlocked and ineffective. We have a President who’s gone so far as to say he might eliminate birthright citizenship by executive order, even though it is in the 14th amendment. Also, they undercut their own argument by admitting the electoral college is not a fully democratic process.
They think impeachment should have a high threshold, but should it be so high that no President has been impeached AND removed from office in almost 250 year – even a President who used a taxpayer financed bribe to buy dirt on his opponent!
Beyond that what about transparency? For the last 50 years or so, Presidents have revealed their tax returns. But not Mr. Trump. I don’t think there’s even close to constitutional requirement that he do so, but I think it makes for more open and transparent government.
In short, I certainly agree Mr. Trump has fought for executive power, but I don’t think it’s to the benefit of our constitutional republic.

0:16 / 59:10

Portland Protests

            Portland has had over 50 nights of protests regarding racial issues broadly speaking and the killing George Floy specifically.  In response to this the city has reduced it police budget by about 15 million dollars just below where it was in 2017 at $230 million dollars.  This was done in collaborative way.  At this point is there still a point to the protest activity?  I don’t think so.  In any state or city that has taken some actual steps to address police violence, let those steps be tested with say a year or so to see the results.  If there is no apparent improvement further protests might be in order – but not now.

                Will the protests stop and what if they don’t?

                I doubt they will stop.  Portland has a significant number of professional protestors and they are not going to go away.  When President Trump was elected that set off several waves of protests or riots in Portland.  There were protests even before President Trump as well:

Protests here often go on past the point of being useful, and that time has come for the latest wave in Portland.

                A protest movement it seems to me needs to have a clear objective, a change in the status quo that it seeks.  That objective should be actually achievable, and it should be clear to all – even those not of board with them.  When its objective is achieved, the disruptions of protests should stop.

                A related set of protests were those of Colin Kapernick and other players in the NFL, and they didn’t have clear and achievable objective.  In late 2016, Kapernick began not standing for the national anthem. First, he sat on the bench and then began kneeling on one knee. Here’s an early statement by Kapernick on his objective:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color, … To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

                His objective sounded good and is good.  Still, it needed more specifics on what could be done to avoid police getting away with murder.  His stated goal is close to eliminating racial injustice.  How to achieve that goal was unclear and the objective so grand that it couldn’t be achieved.

                That lack of clarity made it easy for President Trump to make the kneeling players:  ‘protesting the flag!’.   After the first year of the kneeling, pressure from the President ended the Kapernick inspired protests, and Kapernick was out of the NFL.  Personally, I find kneeling a quiet and respectful form of advocacy, that has roots in the early civil rights movement as explained here.  One success of the later George Floyd inspired protests was the NFL saying its action toward kneeling players was wrong, but notably Kapernick is still out of the NFL.

                I think that Kapernick and his like minded players might have had more success if that had a very specific ask:  continuing the reforms of the Obama administration on police violence including:  ending distributing military equipment to police, and continuing consent decrees with specific police departments to reduce police over reach.  Maybe the problem is this kind of objective just isn’t sexy enough to shout in a protest.

                Another objectives that the current protests should adopt is giving the police an upside in reform.  The budget cut may not fit with this.  Police need to be more accountable – if you shoot someone you need to think there was a significant risk to your life or that of others.  Shooting first because there was something in a person’s  hand is not enough.  This will mean more risk for police – if not being shot then in perhaps being fired or even prosecuted if you take violence against an unarmed citizen.  Doesn’t seem like much upside does it?  The one thing I don’t see anyone mentioning in discussion about police is higher salaries.  I think we have to plan on that if we want police to take more risk on behalf of those they are supposed to protect and serve.

                So aside from if the protests have achieved an objective, what that objective should be, and should they and will they stop, what to do now about them as they go on?  Here are some alternatives:

1.       Suppress the protests

2.       Suppress the violence, but not protests

3.       Do nothing

Many folks and I think the President lean toward the first choice:  suppression.

I’ve had several social media acquaintance argue for this approach to protestors:

It’s kind of shocking.  Why?  Because this video is from Venezuela.  Trump supporters advocating for the techniques of communist country is shocking.  My concern about this was dismissed thusly by a Trump supporter:

Bruce!!! This is NOT ABOUT VENEZUELA. It is about idiots destroying our cities. I don’t care where this particular video was taken, I would LOVE to see it here.

                I don’t get how the context of a video and where it is from doesn’t matter.  Would anyone argue for using the exact techniques used against protestors in Tiananmen Square? It is worth noting that Portland is hardly being destroyed.  Most damage has been in the form of graffiti and only in about a 3 or 4 block area.  Yet the President is creating a federal force to deal with protestors in much that way.

Furthermore, this is brushing aside federalism where the local authorities keep the peace. This is also creating a new federal agency of law enforcement.  Creating a new arm of law enforcement can go off track.  Many likely don’t know it, but Hitler’s SS started out as just a security detail for the dictator to be.   I don’t think pure suppression is appropriate.

                I don’t support allowing the protests to be uncontained either though.  When they destroy property, or threaten injury to the innocent or law officers, that can’t be tolerated.  We need to control violence, but free speech much continue to allowed, but protestors need to know when shut up as well.

The final effect of protests continuing is that the President will use his suppression of them as an argument for his re-election.

I’ll Have a Side of Hypocrisy

Most right wingers (all?) favor gun rights.  The second amendment is likely to only amendment in the bill of rights they actually know at least part of the text of.

Among others reasons is that they object to law abiding gun owners being lumped in with gun toting outlaws.  Fair enough.

The trouble is these same people will agree with this:


Whose ‘them’?  But we all know don’t we?  Muslims of course.  Not so much individual persons who choose to call themselves Muslims, no an undifferentiated mass like mold. 

Except that’s totally wrong.  Muslims are divided into Shiites, Sunnis and others.  Some have been terrorists, but most Muslims just want to live their lives, maybe by coming to the US.

Claiming that Muslims are dangerous is just like the nation’s fear about Jews and Catholic in early 20th century.  My grandparents were afraid of Catholics.  In time they met a Catholic family from Belgium, and found Their  fears were groundless.  Since then a Catholic has been President, and I married a Catholic and we will have our 30th anniversary soon.  Of course some Catholics were terrorists in the IRA.  The point is people are not all the most negative stereotype, even when there’s some truth to it.

If you recognize this for gun owners, you need to recognize it for Muslims.

What do we do in a Second Trump Term?

Trump looks likely to win another term.  His poll numbers are up following being acquitted – he’s riding high like OJ!

The Trump presidency has been awful.  What other president in your memory called to imprison his political opponent – remember ‘Lock her up’.  He’s actually shrank national monuments.  He seems indifferent to racist murders.  He locks up children in cages for the crime of coming to the US looking looking for a better life.  He does his best to kill better access to medical care, and only offers vague ideas on a replacement.  He muses over punishing those who oppose him:  remember ‘opening up’ libel laws.  He wants to bring torture back-despite no evidence that it is better than alternatives. 

But for me personally do I have anything to lose and what can I do about it?

Much of what he does pains me, but I’m safe from much of the worst that is to come.  I’m a white male, so the racism and sexism isn’t directly aimed at me.  My healthcare is not under Obamacare, so I’m good there. 

On the other hand, I do like national parks.  Their future is uncertain at best with a real estate developer in the White House.  Trump has hair-trigger temper and could get us into a war-especially after he is no longer worried about re-election.  If the draft were to come back in some misguided paranoid war against Iran, more child could end up called up. 

Perhaps the most immediate Risk, is more government spying.  Trump is pretty paranoid, and I can see him doubling up on policing to track down illegals.  This could translate into more government spying.  While few of us are the object of this paranoia, we will be subject to scrutiny.

This could grow out of Mr. Trump’s obsession with finding his enemies and those who are disloyal.  Admittedly, I and most of us are too obscure to be of interest.  None the less again we may be caught in the net.  Also, the desire to seek out the disloyal may come down from the  top to lower levels, especially if you’re a government employee.

So what do we do?  I’d suggest looking into a VPN.  These can help keep your online activity more private.  You can search for providers online.

Another risk, is crackdowns based on ethnicity.  If your Muslim especially you’re at obvious risk.  From another angle consider the corna virus.  If the virus truly becomes an epidemic, it could kick in all the Trump’s xenophobia, and germ phobia.  If you have family in Asia it may become hard to visit them. 

Maybe this is far fetched, but could at least Asians with regular contacts with family in a nation impacted by the virus be subject to a quarantine.  It doesn’t seem likely, but a lot of unlikely things happened in the first Trump term, and after re-election he’ll be more off the rails.

What to do?  I’d suggest everyone really should have a passport.

Trump’s Gonna Be Re-Elected

I’d like lots of things to happen.   The 49ers win the super bowl.  I win the lottery and win a billion.   A more peaceful world.  Widely accessible health care.  People able to live or move where they like, as long as they contribute to the community and work hard

But this is real life, and a lot of those things won’t happen.  Life is unfair and bad things happen.  One of those bad things is likely to Donald Trump being re-elected.

I’ve often expressed why I think he’s not who should be in the White House.  His instincts are to punch down.  His policies are bad:  a pointless trade war that has mostly just resulted in a few trade agreement changes that could have been reached at a lower cost; trying to  undo progress since the end of WWII on the environment (while taking credit for the cleanest environment); limits to immigration even by very talented; ignoring how the US has made world a better place for all in favor of ‘America first.  He apparently intends to us federal law enforcement, and intelligence agencies to attack his enemies and to support and enrich himself and his friends.

Moreover, he’s a TERRIBLE PERSON, irrespective of his policies.  He lies and then lies about the lies.  He really only cares about one thing:  how does Donald Trump WIN.  He’s at best amoral, and more likely just plain evil.  Yet, he tries to wrap himself in a robe of Christianity. 

All this said, here’s the worst of it.  I think he’s going to be re-elected and be in the White House at least 5 more years, unless God takes him home first.

There are lots of reasons to think this.  First, a president who isn’t drafting people for an unpopular war, and has an economy not in recession – is hard to beat.

Going back to 1950.  The only incumbent presidents defeated:

Gerald Ford – defeated by a poor economy

Jimmy Carter-defeated by a poor economy

Georg HW Bush-defeated by a poor economy

Trump can claim credit for continued job growth that has been going on since the early Obama administration.  You may argue he doesn’t deserve much credit and be right-but it still points to a Trump win.

Wars drag on and there is legitimate to worry that Trump will get us into more, especially if he get another term.  But his risky killing of the Iranian general Soleimini seems to have had no bad consequences – yet.  Without, most American feeling imposed on by a war, this points to a Trump win.

Do the Democrats have a challenger that can overcome this?

Well, before impeachment, I would have said maybe Biden.  Now, I wouldn’t.  I think he’s been sunk by six months of implications about some vague corruption involving Ukraine, Burisma and Hunter Biden.  It’s the equivalent of 2016’s ‘but her emails’.  A charge that mostly suggested some hidden dirt – with no real substance.

The remaining moderates:  Amy K and mayor Pete have their charms but in the end lack of recognition and experience kills them both.

So what about Bernie or maybe Warren.  I just don’t see the US electing a hard leftist – at least not without a major economic downturn like the Depression or at least another Great Recession.

Master Stroke, or has He had a Stroke

President Trump is nothing if not sometimes surprising.  He proved that again today by agreeing a Democratic plan to extend the debt ceiling for only 3 months in exchange for money for flood relief.   Republican leaders had wanted a longer extension of perhaps 18 months.  Democrats have gotten something in exchange for keeping the government open – which they clearly wanted anyway.


It appears to set the Democrats in a position to use the same leverage in December to wind more benefits for their constituencies.  The Republican leaders now are not on the same page as the President.  Much of the conservative establishment is upset as well.  So one can see the downside of this move.

Is there an upside?  Maybe.

I think Mr. Trump is still smarting from his experience with Obamacare.  He never misses a chance to point to how the GOP leadership couldn’t deliver a plan to replace Obamacare and the votes to enact it as well.  The majority was to splintered and plagued by those unwilling to take a half a loaf to legislate.  I think Mr. Trump feared a small contingent of far right Republicans would make it impossible to pass the debt extension.  He didn’t trust the same old team to perform better, and wanted to try something different.  He fired his Republican legislative team in a way.  We  all know that Donald Trump loves to say:  “you’re fired”.

This really seems unsurprising given the Presidant’s history.  He had taken a number of unconservative positions, such as supporting abortion rights and single-payer health insurance, before he was a candidate.  Even during the campaign he was distinguished by support of social security.  In general, Donald Trump really doesn’t seem to have a strong ideological rooting in conservatism.  He is more of big state nationalist (big military, regulation of Trade, even more so immigration).  At worst he a tribalist.

Will this work for him?  It may be a route he can use in the future.  It may make congressional Republicans quicker to deliver to avoid being abandoned for the Democrates.  Much has been made of alienation of Mr. Trump’s base.  I think that’s overblown.  I think Trump’s base is mostly bored by the debt ceiling issue and tax and spending issues.  Maybe they should be as at the end of the day the debt ceiling was going to be increased as required by the budget and taxes already arrived.  Setting a debt ceiling makes no sense in fact and at the end doesn’t really matter much.

Trump’s base is  much more motivated by immigration issues and and their anxiety about social issues like immigration, and tough cops.  Maybe DACA being rescinded was to keep the based fired up after the debt ceiling decision dropped.  I think professional conservatives are upset, but the base is not.  Trump relationship with Washington conservatives has never been that close.

Finally the move can be called a move to bipartisanship.  In short this still could be a smart move.  There is a final downside though.  I have wondered if on healthcare Trump could make a push for singlepayer with the Democrats.  This would diminish or eliminate Obamacare, and people would no longer think of Obama as the man who increased access to healthcare.

On the other hand, impeachment might be more possible as well. Iif the Russia investigation continues and results in something damning, the Trump ace in the hole is that his party controls congress and is not going to impeach one would assume.  If the GOP congress is angry enough this might no longer be true.

A Question for Gun Rights Advocates

Having just proclaimed my doubts about gun restrictions on practical and individual rights grounds, I have a pointed question for those who advocated gun rights.

If you could make the world weapons free, would you?

It seems to me that you can object to gun limits on two grounds.  First, practicality.  That is say it won’t work.  The intent of gun laws may be good , but they are unenforceable in practice, especially against people who already have no problem with breaking the law.  The   second is on principle alone.  Even if gun laws could reduce murder and other crimes, I think I prefer the freedom to own weapons to that.

I think those who advocate for gun rights usually use arguments of practicality, but tend to feel more passionately about the first.  Political success seems more likely by focusing on the impracticality of gun limits regardless of feelings on principle.

My question if answered affirmatively would make that clear.  So how about it?


So the worst gun disaster yet. Gun controls are again being pursued by many.

My thinking on guns has evolved mostly against it, or at least pursuing it at this time. Why?

First, past experience suggests that a lot of arguments will be exchanged, but nothing will happen. Already we’ve seen a filibuster to push gun limits and it failed. President Obama has spent a lot of political capital on this issue to no avail. I think if Sandy Hook didn’t move the needle on gun control, then nothing will. Over time gun ownership is declining, and in a few more decades, the political practically might be there, but it isn’t now. That said pursuing it will just divert attention from other issues and in the end accomplish nothing. Why do that.

Second, if any limit actually passed, I’m certain there will be massive evasion of the new limits. Given the passion in favor of an unfettered second amendment right, I can’t imagine that all gun owners going to enthusiastically comply with the new laws. It seems more likely to be a parallel to Noble Experiment of Prohibition: reducing respect for laws; and widely disobeyed. To truly enforce limits on guns in a country with such a large stock of weapons and fondness for them would require the most draconian enforcement. If you assume we can’t round up illegal aliens practically, then I don’t think you can argue we can do the same with illegal guns.

Third, even if obeyed by some it almost certainly will not stop most mass shooters – like in Orlando. The Orlando shooter with his security background seems likely to have had a number ways to acquire weapons legally or otherwise.

A significant reduction in gun ownership could save lives. I don’t think it would have those in Orlando however. The lives that fewer guns would save would victims of crimes of passion perpetrated by their family and friends. Even this result would require a LOT fewer privately held guns. Again, making that happen would require massive and very intrusive enforcement. I don’t want to see the intrusion on private rights that draconian gun regulation would entail on principle. Even if gun restriction could save live, I do believe weapons ownership is a right in a free society, and should not be infringed upon.

War on Easter?

Three months ago, we were hearing again about the war on Christmas, including outrage about non-religious greating such as Happy Holidays.  Now we are leading up to the Easter season.  No similar problem?

This occurred to me today in church.  I haven’t heard any complaints about a war on easter.  Why?

I think it is because Easter hasn’t been turned into such a commercial opportunity, while trying to maintain it as a spiritual holiday as well.

Christmas is the key to many profits of many businesses.  Black Friday is crucial to being in the black.  That is certainly true for Christian business people.  But there is schizophrenia about this.

People want to use the holiday for their commercial purposes, but still insist on keeping it as a religious observation.  The first objective doesn’t go well with the second.  People want to use the holdiay to bring both believer and non-belivers into their businesses by bringing non-Christians into Chrismas.  It doesn’t work to draw the non-believer into your religious holiday for secular purposes  and then fault the need to show those non-believers some deference by recognizing their not sharing your faith.

I think if Chistians want to not have greeting like Happy Holidays, then they needed to treat Christmas like Easter – a holiday for Christians only, not a commercial opportunity.  You can’t have it both ways.