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Bacevich on American Exceptionalism

Tom Engelhardt writes a blog (Tomdispatch.com) that is a higher-powered version of mine, in that it calls attention to other writings that may have general interest. This week he uses it to distribute an article by Andrew Bacevich on the subject of amerca’s putative exceptionalism.

Both of them take a little time getting to the point but I think it’s worth the effort. The allusions to The Church of America the Redeemer are worth it alone.

Interesting question for future

I remember a moment in early 1973. I had been following the stories in the NY Times about Nixon’s shenanigans during the election the year before. Suddenly the conviction came over me that Nixon would not be able to complete his second term.  It took a couple of years but eventually that turned out to be correct.

Now I have the same feeling about another newly elected President. I don’t see how the Trump farce can go on for a full 4 year term. I think everyone is beginning to realize that Trump is mentally disturbed and not capable of sustained rational thought. His erratic behavior could be extraordinarily dangerous.

This raises an interesting question. Nixon resigned under the prospect of impeachment, when there was finally proof that he had violated the law. What is the procedure for dealing with a president who is mentally disturbed? That is not a ground for impeachment, or is it?

P.S.   Jan. 31, 2017

I should have remembered bu David Brooks remins me that the twentyfifth deals withe the problem.

http://Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Note that the Vice President seems to be the key agent.

Edsall again.

An interestring article by Thomas B Edsall in today’s NY Times. About the future of the Democratic Party, and with an interesting set of reactions from readers.  And those of you who don’t care about the Democrats, ask yourself who else is going to save you from Trump? The pitiful third parties of the election?

At least the disaster has been so complete that we’ll probably not have have to deal with the Clintons anymore. I still think you’ll learn more about what has been going wrong from Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal than any other source.

Going the rounds

Received from a friend:

Obama, Hillary and Trump are standing at the throne of heaven.

GOD looks at them and says, “Before granting you a place at my side I must ask you what you have learned, what you believe in. God asks Obama first: “What do you believe?”

He thinks long and hard, looks God in the eye, and says,
“I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends. I believe in giving.  I was lucky, but I always tried to do right by my countrymen”.
God can’t help but see the essential goodness of Obama, and offers him a seat to his left.
Then God turns to Hillary and asks, “What do you believe?”
Hillary says,
“I believe in passion, discipline, courage and honor are the fundamentals of life. Like Obama I believe in hard work.  I, too, have been lucky, but win or lose; I’ve always tried to be a true patriot and a loyal American.”
God is greatly moved by Hillary’s high-pitched eloquence, and he offers her a seat to his right.
Finally, God turns to Trump and says, “And you, Donald, what do you believe?”
Trump replies,
“I believe you’re in my seat.”

EXXON CEO for Secretary of State?

Today’s NY Times seems to think Trump Is going to select Rex Tillerson, CEO of EXXONMobil, to be Secretary of State. An interesting consideration, not mentioned by the press, is that the Rockefeller Foundation Fund has requested that state’s Attorneys General investigate to determine whether ExxonMobil should be found guilty of fraud for claiming their booked reserves are safe from being invalidated by the reaction to global warning.

Here’s an excerpt from an article in The New York Review of Books giving background on the matter.

The Securities and Exchange Commission requires companies to disclose known business risks to their investors, and Exxon’s leaders have been acutely conscious of the changing climate’s danger to the oil business for almost forty years. The company didn’t start telling its shareholders about that danger until 2007,16 however, and in our opinion has never disclosed its full scope. To take just one very important example, the valuation of any oil company depends largely on its “booked reserves,” meaning the quantities of buried oil and gas to which it owns the rights.17 Ultimately, however, ExxonMobil may not be able to sell most of its booked reserves, because the world’s governments, in trying to prevent catastrophic climate change, may have to adopt policies that make exploiting them economically unfeasible.

In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) formally endorsed the idea of a global “carbon budget,” estimating that, to keep warming to the two degrees Celsius then considered the largest increase possible without incurring catastrophe, humanity could only burn about 269 billion more tons of fossil fuels.18 (We are currently burning about ten billion tons a year.)19 As of 2009, however, the world had 763 billion tons of proven and economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves.20

If ExxonMobil can sell only a fraction of its booked reserves—if those reserves are “stranded”—then its share price will probably decline substantially. The company has long been familiar with the concept of a carbon budget, but claims to believe it is “highly unlikely” that the world will be able to comply with the IPCC’s recommendation for such a budget. In 2014 it stated, “We are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become ‘stranded.’”21 Because it is a matter of the highest urgency that humanity find a way to adopt the IPCC’s global carbon budget, however, it seems to us that ExxonMobil has been much too sanguine about its business prospects.22 As a Baltimore Sun editorial about the company’s long history of climate deceptions put it, “Surely there ought to be consequences if a for-profit company knowingly tells shareholders patent falsehoods (and then those investors make decisions about their life savings without realizing they’ve been lied to).”23

It is up to government officials, not public interest advocates, to determine whether ExxonMobil’s conduct has violated any state or federal laws within the relevant statutes of limitations. Recognizing this, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) informed state attorneys general of our concern that ExxonMobil seemed to have failed to disclose to investors the business risks of climate change. We were particularly encouraged by Schneiderman’s interest in this matter, because New York’s Martin Act is arguably the most powerful tool in the nation for investigating possible schemes to defraud.24 If ExxonMobil fully complies with Schneiderman’s subpoena, he will be able to make a thorough review of the company’s disclosures to shareholders on climate change and the history of its internal knowledge. He will then be able to decide whether or not to hold ExxonMobil legally responsible based on all the facts.

No state AG’s office can easily compete with ExxonMobil’s legal resources, however, not even New York’s. Schneiderman has been intrepid so far, but would benefit greatly from cooperation from the AGs of Massachusetts, California, and other states, as well as from the federal government. ExxonMobil has already launched aggressive legal actions against the Virgin Islands, Massachusetts, and New York in response to their investigations, and this may deter others from joining Schneiderman’s efforts.25 Still, we hope that other AGs will recognize how dangerous it is when a corporation can use its wealth to discourage enforcement of possible violations of laws governing securities and consumer protection. If they believe the laws of their states may have been violated, they should initiate investigations of their own.

Much of the rest of the article is devoted to an analysis of actions that have been taken by ExxonMobil that indicate that significant company internal policies have reflected a belief in the reality of global warning.

The White Working Class

The Harvard Business Review is trying to help Democrats to understand the Working Class, and they have provided some thoughts in an article by Joan C. Williams entitled “What so many don’t get about the U.S. Working Class.” The quick answer seems to be that they resent professionals and admire the rich.

It’s nice to meet them again although the liberals should be able to remember the people who made up their party in the past. Before it became the party of the professionals. Oops! Are we going to have to put up candidates who couldn’t get into an Ivy League Law School?

Kill Medicare?

In an  interview on Fox Paul Ryan has reassured his Conservative friends that he still is ready to do away with Medicare, one of the most successful programs operated by the US government. His idea is to issue vouchers that can be used to purchase medical insurance on the open market. Of course this makes no sense since it would cost more than Medicare for equal coverage. Medicare has consistently shown lower costs than private insurance.

If a government program is effective at meeting its objectives and is efficiently run it becomes a candidate for privatization by the right. Such programs counter their most cherished myths about the incompetence of government, The targets are not only Medicare, but the Veterans Administration Medical Centers,  and the Post Office. Even the military forces have seen the  influence of the privatizes. Medicare Advantage plans were a mechanism for cutting private insurers in on the profits and the Congress had to subsidize them to make them work.

It seems too much, with the orange grotesque sitting in the White House, to have to contend with Paul Ryan too.

 

More election analysis

 A well researched article by Aaron Blake in the Washington Post shows that: 1) a significantly larger number of voters than usual only decided their vote in the last week before the election, 2) that these voters broke heavily for Trump, and 3) that this was sufficient to explain Trump’s success.

Others have made the same analysis and this is the basis for the argument that FBI Director Comey’s actions in that last week gave the election to Trump. The author of this article is skeptical  of that but his reasoning is in a separate article that I don;t have access to. I haven’t heard any other explanation suggested.  Had the overwhelming establishment condemnation of the Donald held many in doubt, only to have them revert to their gut feelings in the end? As they usually do.

A second of today’s analyses is another one by Thomas B. Edsall in the NY Times. Continuing a theme he has been developing lately he reviews the checkered history of the Democratic Party’s relationship over the decades with America’s working class. What was once the solid basis of the Dems has been captured by Trump! This is good stuff and deserves to be heard.  A party should attempt to appeal to the righteous needs of any major bloc of voters, not because they will necessarily succeed in winning them all over but because a successful party must seek support widely.