Category Archives: Later, in commentary

In a Strange Land: Eight

She surprises me every time she shows her face, and yet she has always been with me. Now that I am in exile, I know that she is closer, though perhaps she has always been this close. It may be that the only thing that is different now is that I have become more aware of her shadow.

She is with everyone and with every living thing. There is nothing special about me; she regards us all, and sooner or later she will reveal herself to each of us.

I believe that she is no grim reaper, no collector of souls. I believe that she has no interest in souls or heaven or hell. Her instinct is to put an end to pain, an end to fright and suffering. Vengeance is not her passion. Instinct guides her. She is not the destroyer. She is the mother of beauty.

I did not know when she would come to me, only that she would come.

It will be no random time. She is not capricious. She is not predictable. I feel her shadow, and her presence makes life dear.

Her reason often cannot be explained. Why does she come for some at night in a forgotten dream? What moves her when there is no pain, no fright and no suffering? I can only imagine that her vision is so much larger than my own. She sees the hurt, the fear and the anguish before it touches our meager senses.

I was aware that my life was growing shorter.

There is an immutable finiteness of life that no protest and no conquest can alter. I do not fear her. I fear more the torment that only she can calm.

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Some other stuff for later,

  • 80
    I wondered sometimes whether I would lead my life any differently if I knew how old I was. It was a question not unique to exile, but in the time of exile, age was defined by death. At a younger age death had been more abstract than it now seemed.…
  • 60
    I have spent much of the last month aboard the Pequod in the company of Queequeg, Starbuck and a guy who wanted to be called Ishmael, along with an assortment of other rough characters. Ahab was the captain of the whaler, and there was no doubt about that because he…
  • 57
    We can never know about the days to come But we think about them anyway And I wonder if I'm really with you now Or just chasing after some finer day. Anticipation, Anticipation Is making me late Is keeping me waiting [Carly Simon, "Anticipation"] I did not know what it…

Something So Wrong: Hearing Comey

The morning after the drama of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, our local newspaper editorialized that the “key question” was whether anything the president said to him amounted to obstruction of justice. While most of the questions from Republican members of the committee seemed to focus on getting Comey to say that the president never ordered him to drop the Flynn investigation, the question of obstruction of justice is a distraction. Vladimir Vladimirovich must be chortling.

Republicans made much—as much as they could—of Comey’s report of the president’s words: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” The president, according the Comey’s notes, did not use the word “order,” and therefore the president’s defenders would have us concede there could be no obstruction of justice here.

But it is rather like a parent taking a child aside, looking him squarely in the eye and saying “I hope you will clean your room.” It would not take any higher powers of deduction than those naturally possessed by the average seven-year-old to know what the parent wanted—and expected—the child to do, or else. Nevertheless, the president’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, insisted that the president “never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”

The line of questions doggedly pursued by the Intelligence Committee’s Republicans is all about demonstrating their loyalty to the president, and ultimately, it is about earning political power. Loyalty is the coin of the Trump realm, and those members of Congress who prove their loyalty believe that they will be rewarded by having influence with Trump.

Obstruction of justice, let’s assume, is an impeachable offense. Maybe what the president has done in his less-than-five-months in office is probable obstruction. A case can be made that Trump’s “hope” in the circumstance of a tête-à-tête in the Oval Office was a direct order. Still, the Republican House of Representatives, where Democrats are outnumbered 237 to 193, is not about to impeach Trump. A whole lot more hell would have to break loose before we get to that unlikely place.

For now, all the overwrought debate about obstruction of justice diverts our attention from what is really important. The most haunting moment in the Intelligence Committee’s examination of James Comey was Comey’s level-eyed testimony about Russia’s campaign of interference in the election process in the United States:

“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that.

“It is a high-confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community, and — and the members of this committee have — have seen the intelligence. It’s not a close call. That happened. That’s about as un-fake as you can possibly get, and is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that, because this is about America, not about any particular party.”

The real key question is: what is the United States going to do about it? There is, so far, no leadership from the White House on this. There is no leadership from the Republican Party. There is no leadership from the Democratic Party. The public discussion should be about protecting the integrity of our elections—and not so much about obstruction of justice nor even about Trump campaign collusion with the Russians.

Comey testified that the president never asked him what the government should be doing to protect America against Russian interference in the election system. Trump believes that “the Russia thing” is “fake news.” By his own words, Trump fired Comey because of “the Russia thing.”

At least the Senate Intelligence Committee has taken on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections as part of the committee’s mission. We can hope—in the strongest terms—that the committee will continue its investigation, wherever it might lead, but Congress needs to act and the president needs to care.

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Some other stuff for later,

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    The first general election debate will be held tonight. The contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is stubbornly close with the two candidates polling neck and neck, according to today's national averages reported by RealClearPolitics. Tonight, neither candidate will win, but it is difficult to see how Donald Trump…
  • 73
    Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton won the debate last night at Hofstra University in New York, but Clinton gave the better performance. Donald Trump played to his base. He seems incapable of appealing to voters who do not already support him. The same might be said of Hillary Clinton,…
  • 58
    On May 3, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to repeal an Obama era rule that provided a safe harbor for states to set up retirement plans that automatically enroll workers (allowing them to opt out) if they work for an employer that does not offer a retirement plan. The rule clarified…