The Limberlost and the Paris Accords

(Guest post by Jennifer Bowman, who regularly writes about nature, travel and life at The Trailhead.)

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Loblolly Marsh Preserve in northeastern Indiana

Up until the late 19th century, there was a vast wetland in my home state of Indiana that stretched across five or six counties, called the Limberlost. The Limberlost featured now-unimaginable heights of biological diversity; it was home to huge numbers of plants, birds, moths, and other creatures. Full of life, the beautiful, terrible Limberlost was also notorious for its quicksands and its questionable characters. It must have been an extraordinary place.

A woman named Gene Stratton-Porter, born in the middle of the Civil War, made a life and a career in writing and photography on the edges of the Limberlost. She turned out more than twenty books inspired by nature as it was found there, including A Girl of the Limberlost, The Keeper of the Bees, and Moths of the Limberlost. Stratton-Porter mastered photography when it was still relatively new, after her child had gone to school and she’d done the daily work that was required, back then, for a woman to take immaculate care of her home and family. In her free hours, she plied the wetlands of the Limberlost with the dedication of a monk, dutifully recording, photographing, and observing its inhabitants and features.

As her life and career progressed, she was forced to watch as the Limberlost was, in her words, “cleared, drained, and ploughed up,” having “fallen prey to commercialism through the devastation of lumbermen, oilmen, and farmers.” The Swamp Act of 1850 encouraged the wholesale draining of swamplands throughout the country, and by the early part of the twentieth century, most Indiana wetlands  had been decimated, including the Limberlost. There is nothing left of the original Limberlost today, though a tiny portion of it has been carefully restored by a few heroic souls. The Loblolly Marsh Preserve, located in what was once the heart of the Limberlost, now spans about 440 acres. The original marsh was more than 13,000.

When I first began reading about Stratton-Porter’s life, I wondered what it had been like for her to watch the source of her life’s work drained to its inevitable death, stripped of its lumber and converted to farms, as the moths and other life Stratton-Porter wrote about and photographed died out slowly.

I wondered about that again this week, as the United States announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, a voluntary set of agreements designed to set the world on the path to ameliorating and slowing global climate change. I realized there is a good chance that will be the lot of my generation and those after me, all over again – to watch as the natural world I love is slowly baked into devastation or stripped and paved over. Already since my birth in 1970, a huge amount of wildlife – by some estimates, as much as half – has been decimated. As I write this, there is a massive crack forming in the Antarctic ice shelf – 11 miles of it in the last six days. Eight more miles, and an iceberg the size of Delaware will calve off, forever changing the Antarctic Peninsula. I wonder if the most fundamental lesson of our time will be that human beings were sufficiently sophisticated to create the technology sufficient for environmental destruction, but too tribal and cultish to find the will to avert it.

I hope that’s not the case. My usual tendency is to look for the hope in a given situation, but I’m not sure that’s justified or appropriate here. And anyway, hope isn’t entirely required or even relevant. We’ll do what we need to do, because it’s the right thing to do, and because there is no other choice. Governors and mayors will become more important in the absence of federal leadership on renewables. Business will continue to prepare for the inevitable policy changes that have been only delayed, not barred forever, because ignoring climate change has become bad for the bottom line. That’s why we saw the likes of Elon Musk, Tim Cook and other CEOs criticizing the Paris withdrawal. One reason for that is, simply, public opinion. That means the opinion of ordinary people, like me, who will continue to press for environmental responsibility, because I don’t want to watch the slow death of any more Limberlosts.

So progress will continue to be made. But we are in a bit of a race against time, and the certainty of the outcome can no longer be the most prominent factor in responsible environmentalism. We just have to do the right thing because it’s the right thing.

The Limberlost is gone. There will likely be a great deal of the natural world gone, too, by the end of my life. My state is just now beginning to ameliorate the environmental destruction that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as smaller restorations of prairies and wetlands, like the Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands and DNR’s Goose Pond, pop up all over the state. There has been destruction, and then recovery and restoration, albeit on a much smaller scale, and much later. This seems to be the human way – we are often unable to stop ourselves before we’ve trashed the place, and while we often have restorations, or truth and reconciliation commissions, or war crimes tribunals – essential to the human process of learning and accountability — there is no way to recover the lost life.
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As the Limberlost shrank, Gene Stratton Porter had to pick up and move to the north end of the wetland which hadn’t yet been drained, enabled to do so by the financial rewards of her earlier writing. But eventually, she moved to California, where she died in 1924. Stratton-Porter was fortunate that the environmental destruction she lived through was localized, and she had places to move. Future generations won’t be so lucky.

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THE POLITICS OF IMPEACHMENT

I am not aware of any evidence pointing surely and unerringly to the guilt of Donald Trump or Mike Pence of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ but I am aware of a long list of circumstantial evidence pointing toward Trump and more recently some pointing toward Pence.

Many members of the media and many members of the public talk of impeachment of Trump and now also of Pence. Significantly, both Congressional Democrats and Republicans for the most part discourage such talk, although Democrats in Congress and elsewhere speak frequently and loudly of the need for investigations both criminal and Congressional, primarily focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possible collusion of the Trump campaign with that effort by the Russians. It is certainly reasonable to avoid urging impeachment in the absence of strong evidence that it is warranted.

But there is something else at work the avoidance of which is not so easily justified. The lack of conclusive evidence in the face of so much suggestive evidence would seem to require some expedition in the investigations slowly underway in both the House and the Senate. Foot dragging describes it as well as anything and that is clearly the responsibility of Republicans who control both houses of Congress and therefore all the committees that could investigate the issues. It is fair to say that recently the Senate committee appears to be through with delay.

Whether or not to delay presents the Republicans with an agonizing political choice. From one perspective it would seem they have an easy choice. If they impeach and convict Trump they get Pence, the one they would clearly prefer. But that would cost them many Trump supporters, who constitute perhaps half of their base, and their voter support in the last election added up to a minority. So delay may be a rational option politically. The recent progress of the Senate committee may be explained in part by the fact that the Republican chairman has announced he will not seek re-election. Furthermore, delay is not without its political cost. The lingering uncertainty about the Russian issue, coupled with Trump’s obvious instability and continual favoritism towards Russia is like a Chinese water torture directed on the Republican party. The longer it goes on, the better the chances of the Democrats in 2018.

Now suppose, after months of delay, late in 2018 Mr. Mueller’s investigation results in one or more multiple count, multiple defendant indictments, one of which names Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator. Even if it came earlier in 2018, the political pressure on the Republicans in the House to bring a bill of impeachment would be enormous.

Timing would become critical. If the process could be started and completed before the new Congress, Pence could pick the new Vice President if he could get a majority in both houses to ratify his choice. Depending on the choice, that might be difficult.

If one of those indictments also named Pence as an unindicted co-conspirator, either in one that named Trump or in a separate one, a plethora of questions without precedent would arise. Would they be tried together? If Trump were tried first and convicted Pence would automatically become President. Would Congress consider any choice of Vice President he made under those circumstances. It might if he named Paul Ryan.

Another question without precedent is what the consequences would be if impeachment was pending but not yet tried by the Senate when the old Congress expired in January, 2019. The most likely answer is it would be whatever the new Senate decided. Such a decision is not reviewable by the Courts.

If both Trump and Pence were impeached and convicted and Pence had not been able to name a Vice President, Ryan would become president if that happened before the new Congress took office. If that happened in 2019 and the Democrats took control of the House in that election the new President might be Nancy Pelosi. Will that motivate the Republicans to hurry?

The Riddle That is Flynn

When I first read the story about General Flynn’s lawyer publicly requesting immunity from prosecution in exchange for Flynn telling his story and assuring all that Flynn had a story to tell, I thought it was a case of a lawyer with experience in civil law working in an area in which he was not qualified. There were several reasons for that conclusion.

Negotiations of the type he sought to start are rarely, if ever, initiated in public for very good reasons. In a complicated conspiracy case involving numerous potential defendants, it can become a race to the prosecutor if it becomes known that one of the potential defendants wants to cooperate with the prosecution in exchange for some advantage. The advantage usually sought in such a case is a deal for a guilty plea to a lesser offense than those that could be charged. Sometimes the deal is for immunity from prosecution but that unusual event is usually in a situation in which the evidence against the deal seeker is not strong and the testimony on offer is strong against one or more of the other potential defendants and not otherwise readily available to the prosecution. That would not seem to be the fact in this case. The facts set forth in the numerous media reports strongly suggest there are several charges that could be brought against Flynn based on his behavior alone in addition to one of conspiracy in which the evidence is not so clear in the public domain. If the media reports are true, Most of the non-conspiracy charges would be easily provable.

Finally, if the government wanted to compel Flynn to testify they would not have to grant him immunity from prosecution. What Flynn’s lawyer requested is what is known as transactional immunity .If Flynn were called before a grand jury and when questioned claimed his Fifth Amendment privilege from self-incrimination the government could compel his testimony by granting him use immunity, which is immunity from any direct or derivative use of his testimony against him. He would still be subject to prosecution In this case it is difficult to see why they would have any reason to do that unless his testimony would implicate someone against whom other evidence was weak or nonexistent.

In any event, if the government was going to negotiate any kind of deal for his testimony they would require him to tender a written proffer of the testimony he could give and do so in specific detail. Such a document would be subject to direct and derivative use immunity even if the parties did not reach a deal. Because of that the government would be reluctant to request it unless they already had the evidence they wanted to use against Flynn.

Those considerations were in my mind when I first concluded that Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, was not usually involved in criminal defense. To confirm that suspicion I went to Google and started researching. I found that he is a partner the highly regarded law firm of Covington and Burling. One of his three areas of practice is criminal defense. So much for that assumption.

Then I learned that he opposed Trump and supported Evan McMillin. Since Trump fired Flynn I suppose it should be no surprise that Flynn hired a lawyer who opposed Trump. But I had thought that the firing of Flynn was a sweetheart deal between Trump and Flynn necessitated because of Flynn’s failure to be truthful with Pence, who was an innocent bystander to the conspiracy I suspected. Could that still be the case? Since Kelner’s actions are so atypical and his proposals so unlikely to be accepted, could it be that their purpose was to create the impression that Trump and Flynn are genuinely adversarial and thus not co-conspirators? Or is this just a spiteful playground fight in which Flynn wants to suggest that he has the goods on Trump. In a conspiracy case it is difficult to have the goods on someone unless you are also implicated. Maybe it is just as simple as Flynn deciding he is not going down alone. I do think time will reveal the answer.

OF COURSE HE DID

 

Trump claims that Obama wire tapped Trump Tower during the election campaign. Based on what we know today, I would be amazed if that did not happen. Let me explain.

On January 17, 2017 I published on this blog a post titled “A Lingering Uncertainty.” You can still read it here and I suggest you do so if you are interested in this episode in our ongoing national drama. It makes complete sense out of Trump’s claim. In that post I set out an extensive, detailed review of what the public knew at the time about the Russian interference in the November election. It described a document created by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent with numerous contacts in Russia which reported, among other things, numerous allegations of cooperation between Trump and Russia in implementing the benefits to the Trump campaign of the documents obtained through the Russian hacking of the DNC. The document had been given to the FBI.

My post also states that an unconfirmed report stated that the FBI had begun an investigation of Russia’s interaction with the Trump campaign, which investigation included the presentation of an affidavit for a search warrant to a FISA judge seeking a warrant for a search directed at Trump aides’ contact with Russian officials. The application was denied twice, but after some revisions was granted on a third request to a different FISA judge.

That is the key to understanding what I said about Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped his campaign. We do not have a copy of the application or the warrant but we can be reasonably sure that it did not direct a physical search or we would have heard about it when it happened. Physical warrant searches of highly public people and places are very visible events. What it probably authorized was a clandestine tap on the Trump campaign phones and/or those of campaign personnel. If the FBI had that authorization we can be certain they used it. Any action by an agency of the executive branch of the US government is taken in the name of the President. Therefore the claim that Obama tapped Trump’s phones is literally true but grossly misleading.

The question is whether Trump found it out or finally figured it out.

He then compared this revelation (to him) to Nixon and Watergate. Once again, there is an underlying truth in what he said but not in the sense he meant it. Once again, let me explain. I view this in anticipation of a multi-defendant indictment in which Trump, like Nixon, will be named as an unidentified co-conspirator. The reason is that under our Constitution a sitting President cannot be charged with a federal crime. Before that can occur, he must be impeached and convicted. Of course, if he wants to expedite the process he can resign, like Nixon did.

 

Rebutting Conservative Economic Theory

The Indy Star of Sunday, February 19, 2017 carried a column by Michael Hicks, the Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. His website is titled “Weekly Commentary.” I have read his articles in the Star previously but I can’t say if they carry him weekly. What I can say is his column always carries an ultra-conservative economic argument. Occasionally I agree with some of his generalizations but I am in strong disagreement with his efforts to minimize the impact of globalization on employment and economic well-being.

His method is similar to one I have noticed is frequently used by conservative economic theorists, which is to contend that globalization has more benefits than detriments and most unemployment is consequence of technology, not globalization. Of course, the reason for this argument is technology cannot be stopped or slowed so there is nothing to be done about it, but globalization is a consequence of political decisions which could be undone, such as joining the WTO and signing NAFTA. This enables them to avoid being confronted by the awful reality of the consequences of globalization visited on the people, communities and states of the Midwest.

But let’s focus on Hick’s Sunday column. He claims that technology played “an outsized role” in job losses in one Hoosier industry, which he later named in the column as agriculture. He writes that technology is responsible for the internal combustion engine, the skill of chemists and the innovations of GPS satellites, and this has caused the loss of 1.5 million jobs in agriculture in Indiana alone. He contends that the gains from this globalization have been accompanied by devastating losses to related industries and job losses among the most vulnerable demographic groups. He cites no statistics for this claim.

It is beyond dispute that over the course of the 1900’s there were dramatic changes in the structure of the agricultural industry in the Midwest, including the displacement of labor by machines, mostly powered by internal combustion engines. Here is what he does not mention. The creation of those machines and the automobiles, trucks and buses that were being manufactured in the US, and many in the Midwest, were creating many more jobs than were being lost to agriculture. They were not creating jobs for the 14 to 18 year olds who he claimed were dropping out of school to work on the farm, which most would see as a benefit, although it is well to remember that machinery did not replace labor instantly. That happened over time.

The manufacture of those machines provided the economic engine that began to roll back the effects of the depression and then powered the US industry that overcame Nazi Germany and Japan in World War 2. It went on to power the highest standard of living in human history.

Now why would he never mention that? There is a reason for his silence on that point. It is the same reason he wanted to write about the mechanization of agriculture as though it happened in a vacuum. That manufacturing industry has been devastated in the Midwest by globalization under the WTO and NAFTA, the forces that are not mentioned in his column.

The extent of this destruction, which is very much like the destruction he described as a result of technology on agriculture, is described in detail in a book published in 2008 titled “Caught in the Middle“ by Richard Longworth. The damage he describes cannot be effectively summarized in an article of a length appropriate for a blog post, but I can provide vignettes of evidence.

Federal unemployment figures can be misleading. They do not accurately quantify unemployment in the US. They do not include those who have given up trying to find employment for which they are qualified. Those people are no longer considered a part of the labor force in the US for statistical purposes. This fact gives us a way to determine their approximate number. They are about the number of the difference between the size of the pre NAFTA labor force and the size of the present labor force, which in spite of population growth and increase in employment numbers since the 2008 recession, are significantly lower. Those employment numbers also do not reflect the long term underemployed. Those numbers can only be determined by visiting the communities still experiencing the impact of jobs moving to Mexico and China. They once thrived. Could that be the reason Hicks wanted to focus on the impact of technology on Agriculture? Here is another piece of evidence. In 1980 UAW membership in Madison County, Indiana was 64,000. Today, UAW membership in the US is about 64,000. It should be no surprise that the workers in Mexico and China are not unionized. Nor did companies move their plants to Mexico to automate them.

Finally, it is difficult to see how “the skill of chemists” and “the innovations of GPS satellites” contributed to the loss of 1.5 million jobs in Hoosier agriculture. Maybe he will tell us in next week’s commentary.

Elizabeth Warren, persistence and the Constitution

Of course she persisted. It was the rational and lawful thing to do. In all the discussion of Senator Warren being silenced for violating Senate Rule 19, a very important point seems to have been obscured, and perhaps that was part of McConnell’s plan, if he had a plan and was not acting on the spur of the moment. The controversy seems to have focused on his sexism. That will not hurt him with his base, and it diverts attention from the substance of her remarks to who she is – a woman.

Let’s look at the substantive point, which is the applicability of the rule. Here is the text. “… no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

In 1986 the United States Senate rejected Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions for a federal judgeship because of his racism. They certainly would have considered evidence of that. We know that Coretta Scott King sent a letter with a ten page attachment to Senator Strom Thurmond to present to the committee considering Sessions for the judgeship. It is not clear that Thurmond, a committed racist himself, placed it in the official record. It is clear that the Senate would have considered the issues raised in the letter. That is the same letter Senator Warren was reading from when she was silenced

In 1986 Sessions was found by the United States Senate not fit to be a federal judge because of his racism. In 2017, in a debate on the floor of the United States Senate, he could not be accused of racism, by a majority vote of the Senate, because he was a sitting Senator.

That interpretation and application of Rule 19 is illogical and unconstitutional. The illogic is apparent. The unconstitutionality requires some context. Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution vests the power of appointment of officers of the United States with the President “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Rule 19 as applied to Senator Warren would render the Senate unable to debate the relevance and/or the credibility of the accusation of the most offensive and disqualifying behavior of the appointee, if the appointee was a sitting United State Senator. The United States Senate, by a majority vote, approved that illogical and unconstitutional constraint on its advice and consent.

Apparently Senators had second thoughts when Senator Sanders began quoting from the King letter. Could it be that if they did not change course, they would have been compelled to silence nearly one half of the Senators. No adjective can adequately describe the negativity of the optics that would have attached to that spectacle.

Rule 19 has a very reasonable application. It prevents one Senator from addressing a personal insult to another Senator in debate, rather than addressing the substance of that other Senator’s argument. This is something President Trump does every day, but he is not restrained by Rule 19.

We now have an Attorney General who was found by the United States Senate to be unfit for a federal judgeship because of his racism. It would have been useful to hear if he had changed since 1986. His actions in the Senate gave little or no evidence of such a change

The following link is to the King letter and the ten page attachment:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3259988-Scott-King-1986-Letter-and-Testimony-Signed.html#document/p1):

#ReSister: A view from the Women’s March

This is a guest post by Friend-of-Hoosier Pamphleteer Rose Hook, who attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., ,and offers some observations below. You can follow Rose on Twitter here.

This is my “content” face. Not a toothy smile for the cameras – not trying to look pretty – not a flattering pic – yet radiating happiness from within, awash in pink pussycat hats. 💕😻💕

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As a WOC – and Asian – which typically doesn’t get a lot of of press:

1) I was tickled to see an Asian woman Speaker wearing a cap that said – “Not a model minority.”

2) Speaking to the issue of white privilege, no doubt it exists – yet as a biracial woman – I’ve experienced the ignorance, hate, and discrimination from both sides – White/Caucasian & Asian.

a) In Middle School I was ambushed and spit on by three white boys who yelled, “Go back to your own country!” (This caused me shame & conflict as I have an ancestor who fought in the U.S. Civil War as a Union soldier and I grew up in the USA. This IS my country. My mother said at the time, “But you don’t even have an accent. I don’t understand. I wanted you to grow up in America so you would have a better life. If you grew up in Korea you would be a 2nd class citizen having mixed blood.”)

b) The mother of my Korean boyfriend of 2 years in college warned him not to get too serious about me because my mother was most likely a prostitute (having married a white man).

c) And we have mixed children like my daughter who has blond hair/blue eyes yet will call out classmates who do the “Ching Chang Chinese eyes” – STOP – That’s racist! My mom is Korean!

3) To all my Sisters – I stand with you – and acknowledge your struggles for EQUALITY & life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

4) Let us not become a house divided. Our white sisters who haven’t experienced racial discrimination – have experienced discrimination as a woman (sexism & misogyny) – and when they join hands with us to learn, to seek understanding, to help – let us embrace them & inform them, (not wag an angry, punitive finger at them). Anyone who wants to SEE me and the issues I face, and stand up with me – I will embrace them and accept their love – it comes from a good place. (Just as I was embraced by the struggles of many that I learned more about at the march, and continue to learn to gain a better understanding.)

5) And yes, let it be known I was taking notes. Very Asian of me. And I was/am feeling loved and seen. This is the first time since the election I was able let go of the anger/despair and celebrate life. That is the best thing we can do – is to show our oppressor that we’re not afraid – we will freely live & love out loud! ❤️

#ReSisters #womensmarch #WomensMarchOnWashington

Distracter In Chief

On October 7, 2016, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence announced a finding of Russian involvement in theft and release of Hillary Clinton emails, followed by an announcement that the hacked emails from the DNC were released to disadvantage Clinton in the election campaign and aid Trump. This came against a background of numerous facts raising suspicions of Trump cooperation with Russia in the effort, most of which are detailed in my post of January 16. More recently, on January 25 and again on January 27 the New York Times reported the arrest by Russian authorities of officials of Russian cybersecurity apparatus and a resulting charge of Treason. This gave rise to various and contradictory theories of the targets of the breaches underlying the charges. One plausible theory is they were U.S. moles who gave information leading to an awareness of possible Trump involvement in the cyber thefts.

One would think this would quickly become the focus of intense public attention on the question of whether our President is a Putin puppet and stay as such until resolved. But our President is a master of distraction, either by design or by folly and attention has become focused on a chain of unusual happenings surrounding and/or involving Trump.

In December, in what might have been a response to a Putin announced intention to strengthen Russia’s strategic nuclear capability, Trump announced we had to greatly strengthen and expand our nuclear capacity until the world comes to its senses. Later he told a TV personality that he was willing to participate in a nuclear arms race which he vowed to win. Surprisingly to those of us who lived through the Cuban missile crisis there was little noticeable public attention to his remarks.

His inaugural address on January 20 drew lots of public attention and commentary, most of it negative. See my post of January 22. More days passed with little or no public attention to the Russian connection, although in early January it had been announced the joint intelligence chiefs had given Obama and Trump classified briefings on the information pointing to Russian involvement in hacking and releasing DNC documents. This led to Obama imposing sanctions on Russia, some public and some not.

The next attention getter was Trump’s inaugural speech blaming politicians for all that was wrong in the country. It had been drafted by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, although Trump earlier had posed for a photo showing him purporting to draft the speech. The discussion of the speech was mostly limited to the pundits, most of whom were scathingly critical.

The events of the next morning were not so limited The burning question of the day was the comparison of the photos of the crowd on the mall at Obama’s 2009 inauguration and Trump’s on the day before. Trump was enraged by the conclusions drawn from the photos of the meagerness of his crowd. He sent Spicer into the press room to rant about the alleged distortion, which drew more attention to the disparity in the crowds. Thus did another day pass without attention to or discussion of what we are told is an ongoing criminal investigation.

Against that background almost as many women as attended Obama’s 2009 inauguration and obviously more than attended trump’s marched on Washington. It was a protest march and certainly Trump’s misogynistic statements and attitudes were part of what was being protested. There were almost 3 million marchers in cities across the country. There were more around the world. It is not a criticism of the marchers but simply a fact that this did not focus attention on the ongoing criminal investigation.

The size of the crowds was an obsession with Trump. He had called the Director of the National Park Service and demanded that he find and provide pictures showing he had larger crowds at his inauguration.

At some point Trump claimed that he would have had a majority of the popular vote if he had not concentrated his campaign on the electoral college. Shortly thereafter he changed his argument. He said between 3 and 5 million illegal voters had cast ballots and all were cast for Hillary. He never explained how he knew how these folks had voted. Last I noted we still have a secret ballot in the US.

Sometime earlier he had spoken of an intention to lift the sanctions against Russia that Obama had imposed. Later he said it was being considered but this was too early. What we don’t know is what, if anything, he did about the responses that Obama said would not be public.

On January 28 he signed a series of executive orders, again drafted by Bannon and Miller without consultation with anyone, stopping immigrants and refugees from designated countries from entering the U.S., even if they had green cards, for ninety days. People were trapped in airports around the country. Some of the people excluded were employees of US companies, such as Google and Facebook. When word got out large crowds of protesters gathered at numerous airports around the country. Before the day was over a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn Division, had entered a temporary order restraining the enforcement of certain parts of the executive order. A federal district court in Massachusetts enjoined the enforcement of the entire order for 7 days. Of course, this has dominated the news cycle.

In a very troubling development, Trump has released a memo in which he appointed Bannon to the principals committee of the National Security Council, which includes, among others, the secretaries of state and defense. The memo further stated that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will sit on the committee only when the issues to be discussed pertain to their responsibilities and expertise. A possible explanation is that they are probably the only people not appointed to their positions by Trump.

Then he had an hour long telephone conversation with Putin.

And the criminal investigation continues. A nagging question is what will Sessions do if he is confirmed as Attorney General. He has said he would recuse himself in any matter involving Hillary because of things he said during the campaign, He has said he will not recuse himself from any matter involving Trump, who he supported during the campaign. That is incomprehensible analysis of conflicts law. If he is confirmed and withdraws the FBI from the investigation it would terminate it because the CIA and other intelligence agencies cannot proceed against U.S. citizens unless working with the FBI. That leaves for another day what happens if he does not terminate the investigation and they find enough to indict. I think we may be at the mercy of the Congress of the United States.

No, it’s not their march

Hello! I’m one of the daughters of Hoosier Pamphleteer Forrest Bowman, Jr. In exchange for helping him get used to Wordpress, I am occasionally offered space here to navel-gaze about politics. I’m also a lawyer, and a nature photographer and blogger. I write and post imagery regularly at my own blog, The Trailhead. Follow me on Twitter here.

Last weekend, I participated in what may have been the largest demonstration in United States history, by attending the Indianapolis Women’s March. I went home afterward and viewed the images and videos of the marches in other cities in amazement.

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Women’s March, Indianapolis

But in the days afterward, I’m seeing a lot of discussion sparked by the #notmymarch hashtag, started by women who emphatically reject the platform of the march and the march itself (as opposed to women who did not march but still supported the march and its platform). On my own social media feeds, I’ve seen observations that the march was not “inclusive” of all women, in addition to complaints that pro-life organizations were excluded. (The reality is that a pro-life group was ejected from the sponsorship of the march, but they still marched – and, according to Rose Hook, an attendee of the march, they did so with a 16 foot sign on sticks that violated the March’s rules, but still weren’t ejected or made to feel unwelcome.

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Photo by Shonna Lovett Mackelprang

A conservative Christian woman named Christy Lee Parker has been the avatar of much of the energy behind this, and as she puts it, “rabid feminists attacked” her after writing against the march on Facebook. Missing in her view of the meanness of the world is, of course, her own incivility to the people she demonizes. But that’s not unusual. We all do it sometimes.

But what I don’t understand is why anyone is arguing with her. She’s right. It wasn’t her march. We weren’t speaking for her. Whether she admits it or not, she will benefit from it. But it definitely wasn’t hers, and she is correct to wholly disown it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is absolutely accurate that this march was “not inclusive” of all women, and it shouldn’t have been. The march was not named the “All Women’s March.” If it had been, it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful, because it would have been stripped of any principle or coherent vision. There have always been women who decide they are better off in the existing social structure, for whatever reason, whether that’s religion, racism, fiscal concerns, or whatever. When women were fighting to get the vote, there were women who fought against it. Critics have always attempted to use this to delegitimize feminism, as if we must have one hundred percent unanimity on any issue before its merit is acknowledged. That’s nonsense.

So in short, I don’t care that there were many women who rejected the march. And I don’t care that some pro-life women felt excluded. A few did not, because they organize their priorities in a way that led them to support the march. That is also fine. As pro-life Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans tweeted:

This seems right to me. Evans herself is pro-life, though she is skeptical of illegalization and wrote a piece about her pro-life vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s worth noting that Evans is also somewhat reviled by the Christian right, precisely because of the nuance she brings to her beliefs. I appreciate the women who don’t agree with me or the March’s platform completely, but still supported it, or at least didn’t denigrate it. We can probably work together. Women like Evans and I disagree on the moral character of abortion, but we agree on a lot of other things.

But to any women who are angry because they’ve been made to feel like they’re a “disgrace to women” for not marching, I say, “meh.” This feminist, at least, is mostly indifferent to you. It’s not personal; I have friends and family who are on your side. I’d invite them into my living room happily, but I definitely don’t think I need them at the Women’s March. It’s not their jam, and I’m not interested in obliterating the principles I fight for to accommodate them. The suffragettes didn’t – which is, of course, why Christy Lee Parker was able to cast her ballot this year at all, and then post a meme about how she stands with the women who “marched…Donald Trump into the White House.”

There are always going to be the free-riders like Parker who utilize the gains feminism wins for them to shut them down for others, who turn around and declare feminists “rabid” and “man-hating”. And I don’t feel guilty for not inviting them along on my ride. There may be things we can agree on in the future, or there may not. But Parker is right. This was definitely @nothermarch.

And I’m satisfied with that.

The patriotism of mockery

Hello! I’m one of the daughters of Hoosier Pamphleteer Forrest Bowman, Jr. In exchange for helping him get used to Wordpress, I am occasionally offered space here to navel-gaze about politics. I’m also a lawyer, and a nature photographer and blogger. I write and post imagery regularly at my own blog, The Trailhead.

Update: Since I wrote this, the hashtag #alternativefacts began trending. Accordingly, here is a picture of my alt-cat, Thomas:

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My alt-cat.

I have been using Twitter as a political news feed for about five years now. As a result, I follow a ton of people, and something like 18 follow me. I finally started tweeting during the election. Twitter has its flaws: It’s hard to say much of substance in 140 characters, although the tweet-storm can legitimately be called a new form of writing. It also has a harassment problem. But there is one unfair rap on Twitter: Almost as soon as I involved myself in the platform, I noticed how easy it was to slip into mockery, how alluring it was to constantly craft the perfect rejoinder. It’s fashionable to call this a deficiency; I hear a lot of people saying that it degrades politics, which should be serious, and substantive. Nope. Politics should be serious and substantive, but that’s not all it should be. Mockery is a powerful political tool. The Founders knew this; irreverence as a political tool has been around since the dawn of America. Ben Franklin was a master satirist. And while it can’t be the only tool in the kit – it must be deployed alongside sober and substantive analysis – mockery, satire and humor are indispensible, perhaps now more than ever.

Here’s an example. On Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lavishly lost his shit at the press during a briefing, releasing a long diatribe about the media’s dishonesty that was itself peppered with lies, before petulantly –and, of course, falsely — insisting that “[t]his was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.” (Video at link.)

That is not remotely true. And Spicer knows it’s not remotely true. Now, there are some really troubling cognitive impacts on the audience of an administration that constantly, relentlessly lies. As this article in Politico notes, cognitive science tells us that the mere repetition of a lie can eventually “mark it as true” in our brains. When you consider that this administration has created what amounts to its own, preferred reality – as when Kellyanne Conway brazenly insisted to Chuck Todd the day after Spicer’s comments that they were not falsehoods, but rather, “alternative facts” – then you see how problematic this can be for the public’s understanding of the truth.

I suspect, though I don’t know, that mockery and humor may be among the only things that can disrupt this cognitive loop. After Spicer’s tantrum, the Twitter hashtag #spicerfacts immediately began trending. These tweets and others usually contained some absurd misstatement of fact, often but not always accompanied by a still image of Spicer on Saturday during his diatribe, mid-lie. Here is a sampling:

This is now a meme, of course, a phenomenon which has powerful cognitive impacts of its own, with some even claiming memes are ruining democracy. (I’m not persuaded.)

To be sure, mockery is as mockery does. When it descends into racism, sexism, or just general “punching down” (as you see with the awful tweets about Barron Trump this weekend), then it’s gross. Here is another unfortunate example of that, this time from the sexist angle:

Similarly, a lot of the mockery trained at Obama was simply racist (I’m not linking to any of this tripe, but it’s not hard to find.)  But a lot of it wasn’t racist. And in any event, every rhetorical tool is susceptible to ill use. I maintain that, properly and ethically wielded, mockery will be a critical tool in the fight for objective truth. There is a reason that the audiences of satirical programs like The Daily Show and John Oliver may well be better informed than consumers of traditional news.

Mockery also has the virtue of being funny — unless it’s your ox being gored, although I’m sure there will be plenty of mockery to go around. Laughter will be important.

But perhaps the most important reason to do it is that power hates being mocked. (Have you noticed Donald Trump’s reactions to Saturday Night Live?) But that’s precisely why fair mockery is so important. And that’s not a partisan thing; although a lot of the mockery of the Obamas was racist, the non-racist stuff was fair game, and it extends to Joe Biden being mocked for his complete lack of filter, Bill Clinton being mocked for lying about his sexual compulsions, and even Jimmy Carter being mocked for, well, everything. You can tell a lot about a leader by how well he or she handles the mockery; it seems to be a nearly perfect proxy for security and maturity. For example, George H.W. Bush famously invited Dana Carvey, who regularly skewered him on Saturday Night Live, to the White House, where he did his Bush impersonation in front of him. And there’s video.

In short, “respect for the Office” cannot and should not preclude mockery of the occupant of that office. So don’t feel guilty. As long as it doesn’t punch down or indulge racism or sexism, share that mocking tweet. Laugh at the SNL Cold Open and post it on Facebook. Share that meme of Bill Clinton or Paul Ryan or Donald Trump. It’s a patriotic act. And although substance is critically important, politics should not always be serious. The stakes are too high for that.

(You can find me and my 18 followers on Twitter here. I retweet the best tweets, like Donald Trump.)