Saturday, February 29, 2020

M-M-M-My Corona

When you've been anti-science for most of your administration, then science is going to eventually catch up to you. And when you've based your entire agenda on tweets that say little more than things are great, then when things get not so great, it will catch up to you.

And it has.

The president and his allies have politicized the Coronavirus to the point that he now owns everything about it, including our health, its effect on the stock market, consumer confidence, and his administration's emergency response abilities. So far, the virus has not spread beyond a few cases, but viruses don't belong to political parties, nor are they Democratic Socialists. What is true today could be entirely different tomorrow. I hope that means that things will get better, but like most of the president's efforts, I can't say that I am confident in  his abilities to manage a volatile situation. He creates one heck of a volatile situation, but managing? Prove me wrong.

I can't say that I'm any more secure in the knowledge that Mike Pence is in charge of the anti-virus efforts. Here's a man who, as Governor of Indiana, had to pray for two days before approving a needle exchange program to curb the spread of HIV. Say what you want about my lack of religious faith, but when it comes to saving lives, especially of those who can spread deadly diseases, I don't need more than a few minutes to make my decision. It's part of my heathen charm.

And this is why I'm suspicious of the anti-science, religious crowd. I understand that Pence didn't approve of drug users, but essentially thinking about letting some die because they were leading immoral lives is unacceptable. Remember that even the patron saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan, waited five years before acknowledging AIDS. Millions of people died while he dithered and refused to listen to his science guy, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and ignored warnings that this could spread to other populations aside form gay men. And it did.

So you'll excuse me if I do not ultimately trust the instincts of the even-more religious people in the presidents orbit. This is not divine retribution. It's a virus. By all means, pray for its demise and for the health of humans everywhere, but I don't want to hear that Mike Pence or Mick Mulvaney or Mike Pompeo are using anything but science to defeat it.

As for the economy, the stock market is reflecting the seriousness of the outbreak on the global supply chain and corporate profits, but the real story is Mick Mulvaney's plea for more immigrants. It's one thing to control the border; it's quite another to ignore decades of data that shows how much the United States depends upon immigrant labor for the growth of our economy. In many parts of the country, including New York, immigrants have provided the only growth in the population. The president's immigration policies, but more significantly, his rhetoric about the evils of immigration will be his, and our, undoing. The economy is creating jobs, but if there aren't enough employees, then all kinds of nasty things will happen including an inflationary spiral as dollars chase a limited supply of workers.

Economics is a science, no? And we know how this administration loves science.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Beg Your Pardon?

And it's only February.

But the Russians are all in for Bernie because they too see him as the perfect foil for the president. And if anyone should know socialism, it's the Russians After all, the whole of the Communist Party is now making billions because of the defender of the faith, Vladimir Putin. Worse, he also knows how to play our president perfectly. All he needs to do is flatter, feign some morality, play hardball with the satellite countries continue to tell the president that, no, he didn't meddle in the 2016 election, and be the bestest autocrat he can be. Oh, and continue to use social media to disrupt those people who are disruptible, which includes our president, by making concrete the story that it wasn't the Russians who interfered, it was the Ukrainians, but that's only if you believe that some country actually interfered in the election, which our president doesn't, because he's convinced that lending any credence to that theory undercuts what he believes to be a false narrative that he didn't actually win the popular vote. And besides; Putin said it didn't happen. So it must not have happened, right?

Yes, I really typed those words. Such times we live in.

Now that said president is feeling much better after being roasted by the Mueller Report and impeached, he's turning on the charm by invoking the constitution, not the United States Constitution of course, and stating that he can pretty much do whatever he wants and can't be touched legally. The Supreme Court will have a decision about this in June. It will be a key test of the separation of powers. And mark my words: When the court rules against the president in any of the cases, he will angrily question why "his Judges" are against him.

As for the pardons, yes, they are within his power and given that other presidents have pardoned some single celled creatures in the past, I'm not going to argue with the power to pardon. The problem is that the president has made this a personal issue. He's pardoning people because they are pretty good people (despite being crooks) and because they were prosecuted by the Justice Department, which the president believes to be full of people who don't like him, or they have ties to the people who looked at evidence and decided that Donald Trump needed to face some consequences. And everybody knows that people who cite Roy Cohn as their guiding star don't ever need to face no stinkin' consequences.

And the campaign? I'm going to reserve any judgments or predictions until after Super Tuesday. Right now, the press is anointing Bernie as the nominee, but we have many more states to go and we'll have some candidates dropping out of the race. The big question is where do their supporters go? Do the lefties all go to Sanders? Do the moderates all go to Klubichar or Biden? Has Bloomberg convinced the voters that despite his record on crime and women, that he is the best to run against the president (who seems to be more frightened of Bloomberg than anyone else)? It's messy. but remember that primary campaigns are usually messy.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Building for a Smaller Future

Is it really a good week for the president when the highlight is that he's been acquitted by the Senate on an impeachment charge?  And then he does his best impression of a the Night of the Long Knives on Friday, purging the members of his administration who saw what he was doing with Ukraine and though it wrong. The bar is lying on the ground, my friends.

But just in case you thought that the president could rise above the petty politics he practices and appeal to a wider swath of Americans, along comes a proposal that is truly frightening and perhaps more devastating to our way of life. That's right; I'm talking about the proposed Executive Order that would establish a classical architectural style as the default for all new government buildings. Inspired by Greek and Roman styles, these buildings would not just be confined to Washington, but would apply to federal buildings throughout the country.

And who would be one of the arbiters? Mr. Architecture himself, the president.

It's bad enough that he uses vile language and demeans people with offensive nicknames. Now he wants the Trump aesthetic to be the defining artistic movement of the 2020s. Can you say shortsighted with a straight face? I'm sure we all know about regimes that attempt to define what is art and language and who belongs to appropriate ethnicities and how to think and what to write. Are we headed in that direction?

We're already in the car and on the road.

I can understand that many people in the United States have trouble with some modern art because some of it is not outwardly aesthetically pleasing. It's there to make us think. To consider our definitions of beauty and form and structure and why we would use certain materials to express ourselves. But to say that it's all ugly and confusing and that a nice Roman or Greek column would look better in front of every government building is the very definition of small-mindedness, anti-intellectualism, ethnocentrism, and fear of the unknown.

Yes, we have more pressing problems, but this is one that can grow into something far bigger.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Please Excuse Our Appearance While We Renovate Our Democracy

I'm sure you caught Alan Dershowitz eviscerating the constitution last Wednesday, but in case you missed it, here's the money shot:

“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” Mr. Dershowitz, a celebrity defense attorney and member of Mr. Trump’s legal team, said on the floor of the Senate. 
He added: “And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

I hope Mr. Dershowitz has a towel absorbent enough to get all the junk off his face.

We knew that the Republicans would do anything to move this trial along, and quite honestly, the Democrats in the House did  not help themselves or the case against the president by  punting on issuing subpoenas and fighting the denials in the courts. This gave the Senate majority the excuse to consider only the narrow evidence from the House and to reject new witnesses.  John Bolton could have testified in the House, but decided to get cute, or maybe stall until his manuscript was safely in the White House on December 30, so his offer to spill it all in the Senate rings a bit hollow. Not that I agree with much of anything John Bolton believes, including taking the US out of the UN, but it seems that he has a few vertebrae which sets him apart from the slithery amphibians who inhabit the New Swamp.

And Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is the first runner up to Dershowitz, saying that the president was guilty of what the House charged him with but, well, we can't throw him out because that would be too, you know, incendiary. And besides, we have an election coming up so we'll let the people decide. This kind of reasoning makes Mitt Romney, who did have the backbone to vote to hear witnesses, the conscience of the Republican Party. 

Strange days indeed.

For a political organization that's won the national popular vote ONCE since 1992, the Republicans sure like to throw the dice on elections, once for a Supreme Court seat in 2016 and the other this fall. They won the first. Let's hope they lose the bet this November.

And speaking of, with Iowans caucusing and generally making mayhem on Monday night, I certainly hope that the more moderate candidates win or hang in the top three until more representative states can vote in their primaries. I am not a fan of Bernie Sanders and believe that he is a McGovern/Mondale landslide waiting to happen. I like Elizabeth Warren a bit more, but again, I don't see her ideas winning the states she would need to defeat the president.

I'm going to nail my tent spikes for any of Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar or Mayor Pete because I truly believe that they can win in November. We are deep in a conservative era now and absent an economic disaster, which I certainly don't want to happen, I don't see the country swinging back to the farther left in a few months. 

What the Democrats need to do is give those people who voted for Obama, then Trump, a reason to come back. The focus should be on health care, jobs, the environment and a more common sense approach to immigration and foreign policy. These are the winning issues. I have no doubt that more will come out about the president's destructive policies in Ukraine and other spots around the world, so even without an impeachment inquiry, he is eminently vulnerable to someone who can make the argument that we need a more practical approach to policy. 

I could be wrong, but I think that beneath the seeming intransigence of people's political views, or at least what the media is telling us about that, is a recognition among many Americans that we can do better than the minute-to-minute tweetfest that we're currently engaged in, and that we can elect a chief executive who can speak about our aspirations and promise rather than appeal to our darkest fears.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest